Lockheed Martin has begun flying the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter with the helmet-mounted display (HMD) system that will be the primary source of flight information for pilots of the stealthy combat aircraft.
Developed by Vision Systems International (VSI), the HMD was used by chief test pilot Jon Beesley for the first time last week, on the 10th test flight of the F-35. Previous sorties were flown using only head-down instruments as the F-35 is the first fighter in decades to fly without head-up display (HUD).
The HMD provides a “virtual HUD” capability, says VSI, presenting flight symbology as well as displaying day and night imagery from the F-35’s 360° distributed-aperture infrared sensor and electro-optical targeting sensor.
Replacing the HUD with a helmet-mounted display requires precise head tracking and low-latency graphics processing, says VSI, the joint venture between Elbit Systems’ company EFW and Rockwell Collins that produces the Joint Helmet-Mounted Cueing System used in current US fighters.
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Developing the JSF HMD has presented tough challenges, particularly clearing the helmet-mounted optics for safe ejection at speeds up to 450kt (830km/h). VSI says the HMD demonstrated structural integrity up to 600kt in tests leading to flight certification.