Military Connection: Helmet for F-35 Provides X-Ray Vision


By Debbie Gregory.

While most helmets offer protection to the wearer’s head, the helmet designed for the F-35 Lightning II is far from that. Pilots who climb into the cockpit of the stealth fighter to fly the costliest military plane ever built, will be wearing a helmet straight out of a science fiction movie.The capabilities of this piece of equipment may be bringing sci-fi to reality through the technology behind it.

Placed strategically throughout the F-35 are cameras and sensors programmed to display data through the helmet. The information pilots need to complete their mission is viewed on the helmet’s visor; airspeed, heading, altitude, targeting information and warnings all at the pilot’s glance. The device allows pilots to see the plane’s environment as if the plane itself had eyes, simply by the pilot tipping his head.

As one would expect, this advanced system has not been a simple project in development.  To date, the cost of the helmet has exceeded $400,000. And as the third iteration of the helmet goes into testing, there are still some challenges and fixes ahead.  Lockheed Martin has served as the prime contractor, and has overcome many of the early issues, such as a jittery display when flying through turbulence and challenges with night-vision accuracy.

Amid the difficulties, the situational awareness the helmet provides the pilot is unprecedented. To address the challenges in the original designs, Rockwell Collins was brought into the project and is providing the third generation helmet. Still troubling the complex system is the interruption of data when flying 3-4 aircraft together. Pilots are reporting improvements, but still experience issues with the software.

The F-35 combines state-of-the art stealth technology with highly advanced avionics and maneuverability

“Testing is an ongoing process,” said program executive officer Air Force Lt. Gen. Chris Bogdan. “If you find problems, we try to fix them and look ahead.”

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Military Connection: Helmet for F-35 Provides X-Ray Vision: by Debbie Gregory