New combat helmet is a vision of the future
The developmental pilot helmet for the highly advanced F-35 Joint Strike Fighter is currently being evaluated by defence scientists at Boscombe Down in Wiltshire.
In 2001 the Government selected the Joint Strike Fighter to meet the requirement for a stealthy multi-role fighter to operate from the future aircraft carriers, replacing the Harriers.
Unlike modern fast jet aircraft the Joint Strike Fighter, which is planned to replace the famous Harrier, does not have a ‘traditional’ head-up display – instead the computerised symbology is displayed directly onto the pilot’s visors.
This Helmet Mounted Display System provides the pilot with cues for flying, navigating and fighting the aircraft. It will even superimpose infra-red imagery onto the visor which allows the pilot to ‘look through’ the cockpit floor at night and see the world below.
Royal Air Force Squadron Leader Rob Harrison, who was one of the pilots who took part in the subjective assessment tests, flying in a Hawk aircraft at Boscombe Down said:
"It cannot be stressed how important this sort of evaluation is to the Joint Strike Fighter Programme. The helmet is a critical piece of equipment and simply has to work."
The helmet programme is being evaluated by the MOD’s DE&S Joint Combat Aircraft Integrated Project Team along with the RAF’s Centre for Aviation Medicine. The developmental head gear is manufactured by Vision Systems International and Helmet Integrated Systems Limited.
The highly advanced Joint Strike Fighter, which is being built by Lockheed Martin, is planned to replace the RAF and RN’s Harriers.
A Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) on the next phase of the Joint Strike Fighter (JSF) programme was signed on 12 December 2006 by then Minister of State for Defence Procurement, Lord Drayson, following a meeting with US Deputy Secretary of Defence, Gordon England, in Washington DC.
In addition to keeping pilots on top of navigation, weapons and other aircraft, the Helmet Mounted Display System will superimpose a binocular-wide field-of-view, infrared image of the world below, allowing the pilot to "look through" the cockpit floor at night. This will let a pilot turn in any direction and still be able to see a virtual heads-up display, replacing the information that is currently seen only at the front of the cockpit.