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F-35 Pilots’ New Helmet

by John Reed on October 13, 2011

You’re looking at what may well be the helmet worn by the first F-35 Joint Strike Fighter pilots at the plane’s schoolhouse at Eglin Air Force Base, Fl. It’s the basis for BAE Systems’ alternate JSF helmet that is being developed due to issues with the plane’s futuristic — and kind of crazy – looking helmet made by Vision Systems International.

BAE’s brain bucket is based on the one used by Eurofighter Typhoon pilots.  However, for F-35,  BAE will remove the Typhoon’s display system — housed in the giant forward part of the helmet — and will replace it with a pair of night vision goggles and a single eyepiece showing Heads-Up Display-style info (shown below).

Now, VSI’s helmet was supposed to project HUD info — and most impressively — infrared imagery from the F-35’s Distributed Aperture System onto the pilots’ visors, giving them an almost bubble-like view around the aircraft in any weather ( the system would literally allow the pilot to look down and see below the aircraft.) However,  projecting very high-quality images onto the visor is proving difficult.

So, with the F-35 schoolhouse standing up, F-35-maker Lockheed Martin gave BAE a contract this week to quickly develop an alternate helmet that will provide Heads-Up Display and night vision should VSI’s helmet fail to be ready in the near future.

Pilots  “want the good picture that comes with the goggles that they’re used to seeing, that they’re comfortable with, that they’ve been flying with forever,” Paul Cooke, BAE’s director of business development for defense avionics told DT at the Association of the U.S. Army’s annual conference in Washington. “What we did for Joint Strike Fighter was, we took the same two part helmet [as the Typhoon’s], the same optical tracker, we took out all the electronics and the visor projection system — just gutted that out — put a goggle bracket on the front and we take this quantum sight and hang it down in front of the right eye. So, in daytime the goggles are off and you have a HUD and nighttime you put them on the helmet, flip the goggles down and because it sits between the eye and the back of the goggle tube, you get the symbology and you also have” night vision.

“If you want an even bigger field of view you can have one” quantum sight in front of each eye, added Cooke.

“What we need today is the night vision goggles until the digital stuff catches up on the visual acuity side,” said Cooke.

DAS info could be added to the BAE helmet at a later date if it becomes the primary F-35 noggin protector.

Here’s BAE’s press release on the new helmet.

Click through the jump for pictures of the eyepiece and night vision goggles.

 

 

 

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