Wednesday, September 19, 2012

F-35 helmet update

One of the integral parts of the F-35s development is the advanced helmet that the pilots wear. It has been going through a few development problems that have slowed its testing down. Issues such as latency, the sharpness of the night vision and jitter have had the contractor, Vision Systems International.

A spokesman for Lockheed Martin, Joe Della­Vedova, recently addressed the concerns about the helmet:
"It's cutting-edge technology," DellaVedova said Friday about the helmet, which makes the pilot look like he morphed into a giant, amber-headed grasshopper.

"They'll be able to see through the airplane, but there are challenges that go with it in testing and development. We will get there," he said.

DellaVedova said among the challenges are jitter that occurs from aircraft vibrations and "latency," the time delay of camera images transmitted to a pilot's helmet. Although they are tiny fractions of a second, the time delays encountered are magnified with the pilot's binocular vision as the plane flies at up to 1½ times the speed of sound.

He said another issue that needs to be ironed out is "night-vision acuity," or the ability to see sharp, clear images.
But, said DellaVedova, the problems have been identified and the solution appears to be close at hand:
Already the helmet has been used to fly the plane at night and during the day, and while weapons are released. The solutions to the problems "are at hand" and will be solved, he assured.

"The maturation of technology systems to arrive at suitable night vision, weapons employment and all the flight parameters on the visor without the need for goggles is critical," he said.
Although it looks like VSI will solve the problems the helmet has experienced, Lockheed Martin had BAE begin the development of a backup helmet which would be less complex and robust than the VSI helmet.

All part of the development process of taking an aircraft with these advanced capabilities from concept to reality. If the spokesman is to be believed, it appears a solution for the problems is in the offing. The helmet is critical to employing the full capabilities the F-35 promises.


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