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Taking a Look at the Heads-Up Display

Written by on Monday, March 5th, 2012

For a pilot, accurate instruments can make the difference between life or death. With no real visual points of reference, pilots sometimes need to rely entirely on the information from their instruments to understand where they are. While flying through clouds or at night, these instruments become even more important, as they can be the only source of information available to pilots.

These instruments are something of a double-edged sword. On one hand, they are incredibly useful; on the other hand, they are somewhat restrictive in that they require the pilot to take his eyes away from the skies. That’s why the heads-up display (HUD) is one of the best advances in pilot-focused technology ever made. The HUD combines the best of both worlds by projecting the information onto a transparent screen that allows the pilot to read important information all while maintaining a view of the sky.

The HUD’s ancestor was the reflector sight, an optical device that superimposes an image from a source that it outside the field of vision. Current HUD devices use a cathode-ray tube, collimating optics, and a combiner to project light onto the HUD screen. They have become a common feature in most military aircraft today, and they have even found their way into commercial aircraft.

There is no real limit to the type of information that can be displayed over an HUD, but most buy generic cialis online HUDs show the same basic data sets. Most of the information relates to the aircraft’s orientation, speed, altitude, and location. For example, the boresight symbol indicates where the aircraft is pointing, while the flight path vector reveals the where the aircraft is actually going, regardless of where it is pointing. The most advanced military aircraft even have indicators that give mission-relevant data to the pilots, such as target destinations that show pilots where to go data or weapon status.

HUD technology continues to grow, and can now provide pilots with the most up-to-date and accurate data imaginable. Some HUDs include synthetic vision systems, which display synthetic recreations of the landscape. With a SVS, a pilot can see what the terrain is like all around him, even in the dead of night. Alternatively, an enhanced flight vision system can place a real-world image over the HUD so that the HUD sensors can interact with the environment more accurately.

What does all of this technology mean? Basically, a pilot has everything he needs right in front of his eyes, enabling him to analyze terrain that would otherwise be invisible to him, quickly gauge his capabilities, and constantly be aware of his position in the sky. With HUD technology incorporated into the bulk of US military aircraft, our pilots will be able to make fast, accurate decisions during combat scenarios.


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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