Thursday, March 21, 2013

F-35: GAO and the helmet mounted display

Those that have followed the development issues with the F-35 also know the helmet mounted display for the F-35 is critical to accessing and using the advanced capabilities of the aircraft.  They also know there have been some issues with the helmet mounted display, serious enough that the contractor agreed to pursing the development of a less capable helmet at the same time in case the primary helmet's problems couldn't be fixed.

The GAO doesn't spend a great deal of time on the helmet mounted display, but does say this:
The helmet mounted display (which provides flight data, targeting, and other sensor data to the pilot) is integral to the mission systems architecture, to reduce pilot workload, and to achieve the F-35’s concept of operations. The original helmet mounted display encountered significant technical deficiencies and did not meet warfighter requirements. The program is pursuing a dual path by developing a second, less capable helmet while working to fix the first helmet design. Both helmets are being evaluated and program and contractor officials told us that they have increased confidence that the helmet deficiencies will be fixed. DOD may make a decision as to which helmet to procure in 2013, but the selected helmet is not expected to be integrated into the baseline aircraft until 2015.
However, if you've been following the development of the primary helmet, you know that great progress has been made addressing the problems it has had, namely jitter, latency and night vision acuity.

Lockheed Martin, in a March 14th update, said the following:
Pilots have flown more than 4,000 flights and 5,000 hours with the helmet and our feedback from pilots at Edwards, PAX River, Eglin and Ft. Worth, is they love this helmet. During the fall, dedicated tests were performed testing the improvements we’ve made and the results are positive.
There have been reports that both the jitter and latency problems have been successfully addressed and the night vision problem is nearing resolution.  Reading between the lines of the LM release, it appears the company is pretty confident that the primary helmet will be the choice and that at this time, at least, 2015 integration into the baseline aircraft is on schedule.

That's good news.


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