THE UK DEFENCE Research Agency (DRA) has completed initial flight tests of a visually coupled system (VCS) helmet-mounted display fitted to one of its experimental Westland Lynx helicopters.

The tests are being carried out to assess the potential for using such a system for tactical flights at night and during adverse weather conditions. Further flight trials will be conducted later this year, using 20 line-replaceable units.

The research agency says that the technology is "sufficiently advanced" to allow the use of the VCS for a range of military applications - particularly for low-level and nap-of-the-earth helicopter operations.

The VCS consists of a head tracking-system (HTS), a sensor platform fitted with a thermal-imaging camera, a helmet-mounted display (HMD) and a symbol generator.

The HTS measures the pilot's line of sight to steer the sensor platform. Altitude, air speed and heading information is overlaid onto the camera's video output. Project engineers believe that the GEC-Marconi HMD, at 48¡ x 36¡, is the largest fully overlapped-field-of-view HMD in use for research flying.

The agency says that attack helicopters will probably be fitted with two independent VCS, one for piloting and the other for the target-detection and weapon- aiming role." The system will ultimately be tested at total "close down', where the pilot will have no direct view of the outside world or cockpit instrumentation," the DRA says.

Source: Flight International