DSEI NEWS: Helmet Promises Next-Gen Features for Fighter Pilots

By Stew Magnuson

BAE Systems image

LONDON — The U.K. Ministry of Defence has given the green light and a 40 million pound contract to BAE Systems to produce the Striker II Digital Helmet-Mounted Display for Typhoon fighter pilots, it was announced Sept. 13 at the DSEI trade show.

Chris Moon, U.K. capability director of BAE Systems' air sector, said for air force frontline pilots, “there are very few bits of equipment that are more intimate or important than the helmet. … On a 10-hour mission, it needs to be comfortable. It needs to be capable, and it needs to really deliver a winning capability,” he said in a briefing at the exhibition.

Under the new contract, BAE Systems engineers are maturing the helmet’s capability ahead of the start of initial production to support qualification and integration flight-testing at BAE Systems’ combat air site in Warton, Lancashire, a company statement said.

Nigel Kidd, Striker II product director at BAE, said the new helmet is a fully digital system, which is a notable improvement over the Striker that has been in service for about a decade. It has a new tracking system that will give pilots the edge and 40-degree field of view. Information is provided to the pilots in a full-color, high-resolution heads-up display, including night vision, which is built into the helmet rather than being attached to the visor.

“The right information is provided to the pilot at the right time,” Kidd said. There is zero latency when a pilot turns their head, which in previous helmets could be disorienting, he said.

Andy Mallery-Blythe, Typhoon operational requirements manager and the program’s test pilot, said the new tracking system doubles the distance over the previous version. Pilots can spot aircraft with the naked eye about five miles away, he said. The tracking system can tell him exactly where to look in the sky, and the symbology can extend that to 10 miles. That gives a pilot more time to decide what action to take.

“If you can make faster decisions, you have the tactical advantage over adversaries,” he said.

Moon said: “The difference between winning and losing can be seconds or fractions of a seconds” in the air.

Another major difference is the built-in night vision. The previous version required pilots to strap goggles to the helmet, which threw off the helmet’s center of gravity and strained necks. Kidd said the helmet is slightly heavier than the previous version, but tests showed that a more balanced helmet — which the built-in night vision provides — was more important than weight.

Mallery-Blythe noted that comfort was vital, as each helmet is custom fitted to each pilot, and the helmet may stay with them for thousands of flying hours, and perhaps their entire careers.

Moon said the helmet is exportable and the next market will be the countries that fly the Typhoon. However, BAE will offer it to other aircraft programs. It is built with open standards, and the company has made sure it is compatible with the ejection seat systems of a number of other aircraft.

Moon said the company is also looking toward sixth-generation aircraft in development such as the Global Combat Air Programme, a partnership between the United Kingdom, Japan and Italy. BAE Systems is one of that aircraft’s contractors.


Topics: Global Defense Market, International, Aviation

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