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Helmet Mounted Display Challenges with the JSF

Written by on Sunday, November 4th, 2012

The F-35 or Joint Strike Fighter (JSF) represents the future of combat aircraft in not only the US but for many other partner countries. The stealth fighter provides a dual role capability in both the Air-to-Air and Air-to-Ground mission areas and will be the backbone of all air operations well past 2035. The JSF was originally scheduled to be “combat ready” by 2008 with the F-35B Short Takeoff/Vertical Landing (STOVL) version with the US Marines. The Pentagon is planning on purchasing 2,443 of the aircraft from Lockheed Martin, but current technical delays and schedule slides in production and testing have pushed the JSF years behind the originally scheduled release.

One of the biggest technical challenges facing the program is the Helmet Mounted Display (HMD). The HMD is the primary attitude reference for the JSF and has replaced the traditional Heads-up Display (HUD) on most other fourth generation aircraft. The HMD allows the pilot to have attitude reference information and sensor data displayed in his eyesight wherever the pilot looks. The HMD is a very critical system on the aircraft and even more so with the JSF as it lacks the traditional HUD. In other aircraft, like the FA-18 Hornet, the HUD is considered the primary attitude reference display while the HMD augments the HUD and if the HMD fails, the Hornet still relies upon the HUD. Unfortunately, this is not the case with the JSF as the HMD is the only primary attitude reference display.

Current issues with the HMD include an inherent time lag in the position the pilot is looking and the HMD display, display jitter and a mis-alignment between the pilot’s eye and the HMD. All three issues are being carefully evaluated and it’s expected that fixes will be incorporated in upcoming hardware and software upgrades.

Although the JSF is the future of combat aircraft, its future is being threatened by a HMD system that continues to challenge engineers and force schedule delays. Once operational, the JSF will be a formidable 5th generation stealth fighter to rule the skies for decades but until sound engineering and design are improved, it will continue to languish years behind its intended deployment date.

If you want advice about the world of military aviation, there’s no better people to turn to than men and women who have sat in the cockpit and flown some of the world’s most advanced aircraft. With over 50 current and ex-warfighters on call, Strike Fighter Consulting Inc. can give you access to up-to-date, first-hand technical and tactical expertise.

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