A long-running effort to provide F-22 Raptor pilots with a day and night helmet-mounted display and cuing system has taken a significant step forward, with the US Air Force publishing a draft programme schedule and requirements list that would “deliver a HMD system by 2020”.
Once installed, a Raptor pilot can visually control sensors and weapons at high off-boresight angles, particularly the latest version of the Raytheon AIM-9X dogfighting missile.
The helmet mounted display and cueing system has been a validated requirement of the F-22 programme as far back as 2007, and is a capability that is already inherent in some older fighters. But cost pressures and sequestration have set the acquisition back time and again.
A set of documents published this month say the F-22 programme office wants a mature helmet system that would be ready to enter a four-year development and test period starting in 2017. Laboratory and simulator testing would take place in 2018 ahead of flight trials in 2019, according to the draft programme plan.
An earlier demonstration of the Visionix-Gentex Scorpion helmet-mounting cueing system was terminated in 2013 due to automatic government spending cuts known as sequestration.
According to the 1June draft requirements document, the air force will accept an F-22 helmet assembly that uses the existing Gentex HGU-55/P helmet – either modified or in its current form – or a new design. However, the programme won’t accept a reduced field of view or any degradation in performance across the Raptor flight envelope, to include high-G manoeuvres, crash, ejection, bailout or water entry.
Key functions include day and night cueing of weapons and sensors at high angles off the nose of the aircraft (high off-boresight), as well as the ability to process and display data and videos feeds from those devices. “It will also be able to receive and display target, weapon and flight data for aircraft state, navigation and air-to-air/air-to-ground weapon delivery while maintaining visual contact with the target,” the document says.
The latest versions of the Raytheon AIM-9X Block II and AIM-120D AMRAAM will be fully available on the F-22 by 2017 as part of the Increment 3.2B upgrade. In February, an F-22 test fired two AIM-9X weapons for the first time against a BQM-34 Firebee drone.