The F-35 Gen III Helmet Mounted Display System (HMDS)—developed by Rockwell Collins ESA Vision Systems, LLC, a joint venture between Rockwell Collins and Elbit Systems Ltd.—which is said to provide "unprecedented situational awareness for fighter pilots," will be delivered to Lockheed Martin for software integration into the F-35 aircraft in the next two or three weeks, it was announced at the Farnborough Air Show. The Gen III HMDS will be integrated into Low Rate Initial Production 7 for the F-35 program.
The F-35 Gen II HMD was demonstrated at the Rockwell Collins booth at the air show on Tuesday.
“This helmet changes the paradigm for the display of information to fighter pilots,” said Phil Jasper, Executive Vice President and COO, Government Systems, for Rockwell Collins. “It is the first to have a fully integrated head-up display, which gives pilots all the critical information they need on the helmet’s visor. Pilots who have flown this new system have provided positive feedback about their ability to respond faster with reduced workload, resulting in an enhanced ability to complete missions successfully.”
“The HMDS provides F-35 pilots with the most advanced digital night vision and head tracking capabilities available today,” said Raanan Horowitz, President and CEO, Elbit Systems of America. “Providing an accurate and readable virtual HUD with high resolution night vision, combined with low latency, is essential to the execution of the F-35 complex missions during day and night operations.”
The state-of-the-art HMD features a biocular 40x30° field-of-view, high brightness and high resolution display, with integrated digital night vision. When fully integrated with the aircraft sensors and systems, the HMDS heightens the F-35 pilot's SA. The HMDS displays the distributed aperture system (DAS) imagery from Northrop Grumman, which gives pilots the ability to see through the structure of the aircraft for a 360° view as well as a direct picture of the ground beneath them.
Speaking to his own experience Al Norman, F-35 Chief Test Pilot, said the new helmet gives him "the choice of what I see, the choice of what to do. When I plug in my HVI [helmet vehicle interface] cable, I truly become one with the aircraft."
The system provides a lightweight HMD, with optimized center of gravity and maximum comfort for reduced pilot fatigue. Everything about the F-35 Gen III HMDS is designed to enhance the fighter pilot’s precision, efficiency, and safety, while reducing the overall cost of the program, says Rockwell. The Gen III design includes improved optics, image device and backlight, along with enhanced head tracking capability and the next-generation Night Vision Camera, providing equivalent performance to ANVIS-9 NVGs (night vision goggles).
Norman says the system eliminates the need to decide when or if to wear NVGs, "turning night into day. It's like having six eyeballs [due to the plane's six cameras]. Everywhere I am I have my symbology with me." He added that pilots can use either the stick or the touch-screen glass to change the option of thier view and amount of information from the helmet.
Rockwell Collins was responsible for the overall HMDS performance and the helmet-mounted display components and Elbit was responsible for the night vision cameras, helmet tracking, and display processing components.
To date, more than 160 HMDS units have been delivered to Lockheed Martin. The HMDS generations have logged more than 15,000 hours of test flights on the F-35.