<< Back

Thrustmaster, New York, July 5th 2006 — When you’re looking for the best of the best in flight simulation, three words come to mind: precision, realism and performance. The new partnership between Thrustmaster and the Virtual Thunderbirds demonstrates the perfect union of these concepts, bringing the most advanced flight stick on the market to the most skilled hands in aerial simulation.

Thrustmaster’s HOTAS Cougar is unlike any other simulation device on the market. A replica of the legendary F-16, the benchmark in terms of modern fighter planes, the HOTAS is the product of long and considerable investment in Research and Development. Thrustmaster’s partnership with the prestigious U.S. Air Force adds unique credibility to the HOTAS, since the product’s functionalities are in every way identical to the controls of the real aircraft. The Virtual Thunderbirds, a leading aerobatic simulation group, are well-known for their skills at reproducing aerial shows performed by the United States Air Force’s Thunderbirds demonstration squadron, composed solely of F-16 fighter aircraft.

A replica crafted for performance
"Our all-metal HOTAS Cougar is a real powerhouse of technologies, featuring 28 programmable buttons, adjustable throttle resistance, adjustable Afterburner and Idle detents and a variety of programmable hat-switches, in particular. All of this results in formidable efficiency and great realism in aerial simulation games,” notes Eric Mindjimba of Thrustmaster’s International Marketing Department. “We are very happy to be collaborating with leading members of the simulation community such as the Virtual Thunderbirds, as this gives rise to far-reaching ambassadors able to demonstrate all the possibilities offered by the HOTAS Cougar."


Top of the top
The Virtual Thunderbirds are an elite aerial simulation group. They have been reproducing the full spectrum of maneuvers, formations, radio communications and more of the U.S. Air Force’s real Thunderbird jets since 2004. Team members currently include 5 real-life pilots, 4 of whom are airline pilots, as well as a U.S. Air Force aircrew member.

"Our quest for perfection requires the best equipment and technical and marketing support, which is why we have entered into this partnership with Thrustmaster,” explains Mike Jobe, Commander/Leader of the Virtual Thunderbirds. “It allows us to demonstrate our piloting skills using the HOTAS Cougar, which is a true replica of the controls on an F-16. We are honored to be the first virtual demonstration team to endorse a high-end product such as the HOTAS Cougar. All of our pilots are now using the HOTAS exclusively as it is the best product available on the market for us, hands down."

A strong mutual investment
The partnership agreement between Thrustmaster and the Virtual Thunderbirds revolves around the Virtual Thunderbirds’ exclusive use of the HOTAS Cougar in particular, but also has joint implications regarding events and the development of communications tools. Another important aspect of this collaboration consists of technical cooperation between the two parties in order to pass the contributions of the Virtual Thunderbirds along to all current and future HOTAS Cougar owners.


The Virtual Thunderbirds
The Virtual Thunderbirds are an elite group of formation and aerobatic pilots flying the flight simulator game Lock On: Modern Air Combat. We use our own Thunderbirds F-16C Fighting Falcon mod to simulate the red, white and blue Thunderbird jets. We pride ourselves in our flying and strive to achieve excellence both in appearance and skill while working as a very cohesive group dedicated to presenting the Thunderbirds in the best manner possible in the virtual skies. All of us have jobs outside of this "hobby", however many of us are real life professional pilots. This is not a pre-requisite for becoming a Virtual Thunderbird and we encourage people to tryout and possibly earn a spot on the team sometime in the future. It can be hard to balance real life with the great deal of practice and talent required to be part of this squad, both in the air and on the ground. In addition to flying the maneuvers to parameters matching the real Thunderbirds very closely on a home computer, we also record our flying on a regular basis for use in movies, artwork and screenshots. The complete team consists of a 12-pilot roster including a core group of 6 show pilots (Thunderbirds 1 through 6) and 2 additional pilots (Thunderbirds 7 and 8) that have more clearly defined roles on the team; however, we consider all of our 12 pilots part of the squad and capable as spare pilots. It's our pleasure to showcase the pride, power and precision of the United States Air Force while crossing into the blue in pixels. Now, sit back, relax and watch us make you proud! Thunderbirds, let's run 'em up!