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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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{ 31 comments… read them below or add one }

Letsallbefriends October 13, 2011 at 3:27 pm

Surprised they’re having problems with this. Everything else has been going so well.

All those billions and it still has to be saved by someone taking something off the shelf, gutting it out and sticking a bracket on the front.

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Shail October 13, 2011 at 3:36 pm

So is a pilot even going to be able to pull any serious G's wearing that thing?
It looks awfully front/top heavy,
I'd be concerned of pilots spraining their neck vertebrae during ACM training,…or are they going to limit the G-moves an F-35 can do,
to the point a well-trained F-16 Agressor can turn inside the -35 and give 'em a taste of reality?

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Guest October 14, 2011 at 5:04 am

Exactly what I was thinking. But then again, apparently the missiles are supposed to do the maneuvering. Yeah right.

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Brian Black October 14, 2011 at 5:17 am

The Distributed Aperture System provides the pilot with full situational awareness, even when his face is squashed against the floor of the cawkpit.

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James October 13, 2011 at 4:41 pm

Scrap the whole program, continue evolving the F-22 and invest in buying Silent Eagle and Block 60 and 70 F-16s…… Total waste of money. As far as the helmet why not continue developing the JHMCS…..

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Wilhelm Johannes Palomäki Johansen February 24, 2012 at 8:55 pm

The world has more demands for one object, and an F-35 can do the same thing as an F-22 and an Apache.

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itfunk October 13, 2011 at 6:11 pm

We are reduced to cannibalizing parts from euro-fighters now ?
ACM isnt a problem the F-35 electrical system give sway at 4G anyways.

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Brian Black October 14, 2011 at 5:19 am

Now you just need to buy the Eurofighter to put the helmet in.

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William C. October 14, 2011 at 6:08 am

According to who? The current iteration of the electrical system works fine, the early version wasn't providing enough power for the F-35C but this was corrected.

Or are we living in a fantasy world where no other fighter has encountered problems during development?

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Ken October 13, 2011 at 7:10 pm

You've got to be kidding me! This is the best we can do with billions of taxpayer dollars and years of development. Very sad. Just glad I don't have to wear that beast.

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Jworm October 14, 2011 at 1:08 pm

Did you read the article? This isn't the best they can do, it is just risk mitigation in case the original falls behind schedule.

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Mark October 14, 2011 at 1:11 pm

Please, if you knew anything about how the government works, you should know when they something is temporary, really means it will be permanent.

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SMSgt Mac October 13, 2011 at 7:55 pm

Wowza news here. OTT channelling of a BAE Marketeer's OTT kickoff pitch. I note that nowhere does this article mention that it has been emphasized by F-35 managment that this is a 'Just In Case' contract. see: http://defensenews.com/blogs/ausa/2011/10/11/bae-
I read this as good risk management and a warning shot across VSI's bow. Significant but not surprising.
Cavil away boyz!

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TLAM Strike October 13, 2011 at 11:12 pm

Here is an idea. I've seen glass that can change from transparent to opaque with an electrical current. Why not make the cockpits glass out of that, then when the pilot flips a switch the outside becomes opaque and the inside has a night vision or FLIR picture projected on it with a moving HUD (even an entire cockpit dashboard?) that follows his head movements using motion tracking. That way the pilots helmet is no bigger, he gets night vision that does not mess with the depth perception inside the cockpit, and he can have the cockpit illuminated how he wants without it being a beacon to the outside world.

That has to be more practical to use than that mess of gear stuck on a person's head.

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Thomas L. Nielsen October 14, 2011 at 1:54 am

"More practical"? Depends on your definition of "more practical".

First of all, what would be the development time and cost of the system you describe? Just asking.

Second, this variable-transparency glass of yours, is that strong and lightweight enough to make a cockpit canopy out of it?

And thirdly, have you tried to convince a combat pilot to fly with a blacked-out cockpit canopy?

Regards & all,

Thomas L. Nielsen
Luxembourg

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Joe Schmoe October 14, 2011 at 10:34 am

The problem is that the canopy is made of materials designed to deflect as much radio energy as possible. Remember that on older birds a lot of the radio energy enters the cockpit and bounces off the pilots helmet for a great return.

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tiger October 18, 2011 at 2:36 pm

Thinking outside the box. Sounds good!

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Luke S-W March 1, 2012 at 9:33 pm

How will I be able to hit anything with the blast shield down?

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Mat October 14, 2011 at 9:40 am

In related news, the new sensor system to replace EOTS and DASS is announced. "We call it a 'targeting pod' " a Lockheed spokesman says through a grin that may be sheer fear.

"It does everything a pilot really wants, plus we created it quickly by gutting the electronics from some really obscure Israeli systems. Where they had some silly 'hi tech' doo-dads in the big 'ol case, we replaced that with a maglight duct-taped to a laser pointer from Target."

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David October 14, 2011 at 9:58 am

If the surrounding is displayed on the helmet visior, why not put the pilot in lying position and make him way more resistant to G forces?

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cthel October 15, 2011 at 3:27 pm

The British did quite a bit of experimentation along that line just after WWII (even took a meteor and added a second ****pit in the nose to make sure the results scaled across the jets) and found that, yes, you do increase G-tolerance significantly, but with several downsides.

The pilot will be lying on a couch; even with a fully adjustable support, this is less comfortable than sitting in a chair.

The pilot is only able to move their arms a limited amount, due to them only having freedom from the elbow (This is much less of a problem nowadays due to fly-by-wire having replaced manual controls, but still reduces the amount of strength available to overcome G-loads)

Ejecting is more complicated, since the pilot is taking up much more space when viewed from above (the direction he would be leaving the plane in)

But the big problem, which really killed the idea, was a total lack of situational awareness. Lying prone, you can only really look ahead, down and slightly to the sides. It is basically impossible to look behind you, and that is a recipe for disaster when it comes to aerial warfare.

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skyking607 October 14, 2011 at 1:32 pm

Okay…. now let's see, if I'm wearing this and have to "punch-out," will my head still be attached to my body?

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GAOwannabe October 14, 2011 at 2:33 pm

I like the cable ties and electrical tape, that's $250 dollars to BAE right there.

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Lance October 14, 2011 at 3:05 pm

Going to fall victim to not being bought with the F-35B……. We shall see.

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Nomexjock October 16, 2011 at 11:15 am

Does this come with neck brace? Maybe adapt the HANS system from NASCAR… at least that is proven equipment.

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Tyler March 5, 2012 at 12:21 pm

You can't turn your head well in a HANS system. (and it's not exclusive to nascar anyways)

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tiger October 18, 2011 at 2:41 pm

This is a long way from leather helmets & googles……

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a holt February 24, 2012 at 1:14 am

how about the obstruction of vision to the pilot. i know they are inst. rated airmen but still you dont use that crap in a dogfight. you want to be able to see as much as possible. they need to put an internal gun in it as well. the brainyacs didnt learn anything from the F-4 in vietnam.

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JetFuelMan September 15, 2012 at 11:30 pm

Dog fights, no gun in Vietnam era F4's…in the beginning yes, but that changed too! Dude just like Wingman 782 said get an education and keep up with technology! First the F-35A has a very good 25mm internal cannon thank you – just in case a bad guy has to be engaged in ACM, but, given the sophistication of the F-35 radar and beyond visual range capabilities of todays missles and targeting systems that are so good that is highly unlikely. As for the B and C model they have have centerline mounted 25mm cannnon…or in your case lets call them "machine guns". By the way the HMD is highly intergrated with the aircraft systems (we call this aircraft systems integration). With the aforemention targeting systems one round of 25mm is as effective today as hundreds of 50 caliber "bullets" back WWII or Korea. Finally do you "braniacs" ever stop to think that R&D is alive and well…before we build a 5th Generation Aircraft…as in the consideration of helmet weight? I'm not going to state actual anything, but a guess of less than 3 pounds and dropping comes to mind. Finally, the F-35 has demonstrated 9G+ turns in flight test months ago..some knuklehead mentioned 4G's…h*** my Z06 Vette does that.

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WIngman782 February 24, 2012 at 2:07 pm

Here is some advice for the people posting the unintelligent, uneducated comments. Go to school and get an engineering degree. Find work on a government defense contract. Find this post 10 years from now and look at all of these ridiculous comments. Until you are in that particular line of work trying to solve a complex series of problems with variables 99% of people don’t know exist, stop with the “billions of dollars of taxpayers money wasted”. The majority of you obviously have no clue the amount of technical research and mathematical computation it takes to effectively develop something like this that is for the most part, “reliable”. If you want something developed for 90% less cost, it can be done. But don’t expect it to defend your freedom and the freedom of every other American.

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doc young February 25, 2012 at 2:25 pm

Do you REMEMBER Viet-Nam and the early PhantomII's ? The Mig 17's and 19's just ate them up with their 23 & 37 mm cannons. We finally wised up and put 20mm on the Phantoms and we went from 1:5 ratio to a 1:11 ratio in shootdowns in air to air combat! Are we gonna have to lose a bunch of these F-35's before we put some guns on them? The F-22 has a gun system and its still damn near invisible to radar ( I believe they say it has a radar signature like a seagull or smaller)

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