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BAE responds to F-35 helmet letdown

BAE Systems has responded to a cost-cutting decision by the US Joint Program Office (JPO) to halt the development of an alternative helmet-mounted display system (HMDS) for the Lockheed Martin F-35 by reaffirming its commitment to the fifth-generation combat aircraft.

“We are disappointed at the decision by Lockheed Martin and the Joint Strike Fighter Joint Program Office to discontinue the pursuit of a second helmet for the F-35,” the company says.

BAE had been funded to develop an alternative advanced helmet for the type, by drawing on its experience in providing a panoramic HMDS for the Eurofighter Typhoon, after intended primary supplier Vision Systems International (VSI) encountered difficulties with its design.

Describing its solution as having offered Lockheed and the JPO a “reliable, dependable and affordable design”, BAE notes: “Our programme team has achieved every milestone to date, providing a critical viable alternative for the customer.”

While it has accepted the stop-work decision and reaffirmed its wider industrial commitment to the JSF programme, BAE says: “We’ll be ready at any time should they change their mind on the helmet.”

The JPO announcement came as a surprise, with programme executive officer Lt Gen Christopher Bogdan having said only last month that work on both helmets would be completed before taking part in a competitive fly-off. Halting the development of the BAE design at this stage will save $45 million, the JPO says.

A joint venture between Rockwell Collins and Elbit Systems, VSI will complete the development of its own HMDS for the F-35, with a fully ready third-generation system to be available for fleet introduction during the fiscal year 2016.

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