Print 33 comment(s) - last by fuzzlefizz.. on Mar 7 at 2:45 AM

F-35A Lightning II in flight  (Source: Lockheed Martin)

F-35 helmet
Fixes are in the works, but short term solutions might involve heads-down displays in the cockpit

One of the more interesting components of the F-35 JSF is the futuristic Gen II Helmet Mounted Display System or HMDS. The helmet displays all critical flight information from the aircraft on the visor of the helmet rather than on a traditional HUD like most aircraft use.

The F-35 Gen III HMDs has many interesting features including a virtual HUD, video display that can show feeds from cameras mounted around the aircraft, and an opto-magnetic tracker. The helmet is also able to send the pilot feeds from night vision cameras mounted around the aircraft rather than the pilot having to wear night vision goggles, as is commonplace with other aircraft.

The problem with the helmets is that the video system has been error prone and suffers from various issues that make the helmet difficult for pilots to use. Defense News reports that among the issues with they helmet are video that lags behind where the pilot is actually looking and images that aren’t aligned correctly with what the pilot is seeing.

The night vision camera system also has significant issues that are more pronounced than the video issues with the daytime-use cameras. The company that developed the helmet for the F-35 is working to address the issues. In the near term Vice Adm. David Venlet, JSF program chief, says that fixes might include moving some of the imagery from the helmet to the head-down flat panel displays and having the pilot use conventional night vision goggles.

However, Venlet says, "We're not giving up on the requirement."

The helmet developer Vision Systems International (VSI) says that it has a long-term solution to the issues mapped out. VSI president Drew Brugal said, "We have several engineering changes, which we have integrated in a block plan."

Brugal also noted that some of the modifications have already been integrated into the first two low-rate production helmets. One of the fixes for the video issues was to slip a shim 8/1000th of an inch between the helmet shell and the video component. Brugal says that one helmet in testing has shown significant improvements with the modifications installed. Part of the issue with image jitter was found to be the magnetic tracker reacting to the ejection seat vibrations. 

VSI notes that it has written software that will overcome some of the jitter caused by the vibrations and in the future, it will install a small inertial measurement unit into the helmet to reduce the issue even more. The company hopes to eventually upgrade the helmet to color displays.

"Color is going to be incorporated into the future display. That's not part of our road map, but as we incorporate color into our other offerings, I would anticipate that color will part of the F-35 in the future," Brugal said.

The helmet was identified as one of the problem areas of the F-35 in a Pentagon report. The first production F-35A flew this week.

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Keeping it simple.
By drycrust3 on 3/1/2011 2:24:37 PM , Rating: 1
Fixes are in the works, but short term solutions might involve heads-down displays in the cockpit

Excuse my total ignorance on modern fighter aircraft, but what happens in the heat of a battle or landing or flying under the radar if the chord from the helmet fails? Sure, you have the 101 instruments in front of you to tell you what the aircraft is doing, but ... a hundred million dollar plane stumped by a $1 chord failing? ... isn't this still in the prototype stage? The plane can't even shoot at rabbits on the ground because the Fancy Helmet doesn't work? Why not go for keeping it simple by fitting a stock standard normal HUD at least until the helmet manufacturers have 100% reliable Fancy Helmets rolling off the production line.
Sure, you want to integrate the helmet into the avionics, but since you don't know exactly what the end user will purchase wouldn't it make sense to write the software and build the avionics so either a normal HUD or the Fancy Helmet can be used? Then if the Fancy Helmet gets dropped or the pilot broke the chord for the third time this week as he was climbing out of the plane and there's no spares or whatever, you just take a stock standard HUD out of stores, mount it, connect up the different leads, give the pilot a regular helmet, tell him you'll put his complaint in writing, and your plane is back in service.

RE: Keeping it simple.
By Iaiken on 3/1/2011 3:25:10 PM , Rating: 2
Prudence does not a Fancy Helmet get you...

RE: Keeping it simple.
By nafhan on 3/1/2011 3:53:11 PM , Rating: 2
What's your point? There are "$1 chords" and other simple parts throughout the entire aircraft, and many of them are just as essential as this one. Most aircraft and other technological devices are complex things built from many, many simple parts. If you left out everything that had a small chance of failing, you wouldn't be able to build an aircraft. :)

Anyway, the point of "fancy helmets" is to give the pilot a situational awareness advantage in combat. It's the type of thing that, when working properly, can make a huge impact. Air combat is the type of thing where every second counts.

RE: Keeping it simple.
By Sazabi19 on 3/1/2011 4:14:19 PM , Rating: 2
What are you talking about a "small chance failing"? This helmet has yet to work correct and be fully functional. Part of what he said makes sense. Have the capability to have a regular hud and then once this tech has matured and been tested then use the shiney new helmet. We aren't saying to not use it or don't develop it, just dont make it either this or we are not going to fly the thing.

RE: Keeping it simple.
By jadawgis732 on 3/1/2011 10:26:23 PM , Rating: 2
I don't think that's the point of the F-35 program. We already have some of the best current day fighters in production. The JSF is a fighter designed to satisfy vastly different purposes. It is going to be a next gen aircraft all-around. I don't think there is any rush to get it into production. Aircraft like these are not designed to be used in combat so much as deter combat by their sheer firepower. Cutting corners would undercut that goal.

RE: Keeping it simple.
By borismkv on 3/3/2011 9:54:13 AM , Rating: 2
Oh sure, the $1 chords cost a dollar for normal people, but when someone sells it to the government it costs $1,000

RE: Keeping it simple.
By GuinnessKMF on 3/1/2011 6:02:56 PM , Rating: 3
... There is no such thing as a one dollar anything in this aircraft.

RE: Keeping it simple.
By Motoman on 3/2/2011 12:23:19 AM , Rating: 5
No...I'm sure the cord (not "chord" - that made my brainmeats hurt) was probably made by Monster Cable because they were the highest bidder. Probably a million dollars per foot - but it's cool because they manufactured it in such a way that aligned the molecular intent with the polarmagnetic Gauss fields to ensure optimal quark-transition opulence.

RE: Keeping it simple.
By leuNam on 3/2/2011 11:15:00 AM , Rating: 2
maybe they need to put in a video card on the helmet..hahaha

RE: Keeping it simple.
By Landiepete on 3/2/2011 2:45:12 AM , Rating: 3
a hundred million dollar plane stumped by a $1 chord failing?

This is solved most cunningly by charging 5.000 USD for said 1$ cord.
Can't have airplanes crash because of cheap components, now can we !

RE: Keeping it simple.
By Carl B on 3/5/2011 10:36:24 AM , Rating: 2
Genius post!

RE: Keeping it simple.
By BushStar on 3/2/2011 4:42:22 AM , Rating: 2
Cord? Doesn't it run on 11b wireless?

My real concern is if the AA batteries in the helmet ran out during a flight.

RE: Keeping it simple.
By drycrust3 on 3/2/2011 3:20:49 PM , Rating: 2
Doesn't it run on 11b wireless?

I had thought of that, but then I thought they wouldn't use that because an enemy might eaves drop or hack into it and feed wrong information to the pilot.

The point of my argument wasn't so much the cord (not "chord" as someone very kindly pointed out) failing, but what happens if a realistically common failure occurs? In this case the "cord failure" is just representative of any failure regarding the helmet.
Also the "failure" could actually represent the desire to add more advanced technologies to the plane as well. If you want to add technology, then that impacts the whole plane.
In this case the representative failure is "the cord breaks". Maybe, as you suggest, it is the Bluetooth being jammed by an enemy or the AA batteries going flat. What does the cord do? It feeds power to the helmet, it carries data to the helmet, it carries audio the the helmet, it carries video to the helmet, it carries audio from the helmet, and in later technologies it will carry data back to the plane so the pilot just needs to think or look and the plane will respond.
So when this "representative failing" occurs the correct response is that the pilot has a backup plan, so that as soon as the pilot is aware of the problem he can flick of a switch and continue on with his business, e.g. dog fighting or firing missiles at enemy fuel dumps or landing the plane. Backup systems aren't supposed to be superior to the "on line" system, but they are supposed to cover the basics.
But in this case when that failure occurs, and Murphy's Law says the failure will happen at the worst possible moment, the plane has no backup system.
Not having a backup is acceptable in a prototype system since it isn't actually meant to be used in "the real world", but not having one in a production model, especially when the cost of the backup isn't prohibitively expensive, is another story.

RE: Keeping it simple.
By delphinus100 on 3/2/2011 7:22:54 PM , Rating: 2
I had thought of that, but then I thought they wouldn't use that because an enemy might eaves drop or hack into it and feed wrong information to the pilot.

Or just locate it...

I wonder what ejecting wearing that puppy would be like? Here's hoping all wired connections disengage when they should.

RE: Keeping it simple.
By cjc1103 on 3/2/2011 8:56:37 AM , Rating: 2
Yes, you are totally ignorant on modern fighter aircraft. No I'm not going to waste my time pointing out how ignorant.

RE: Keeping it simple.
By drycrust3 on 3/2/2011 6:41:16 PM , Rating: 1
No I'm not going to waste my time pointing out how ignorant.

Time will tell whether I am right or not, and my guess is it will prove I am more right than you would prefer.

RE: Keeping it simple.
By fuzzlefizz on 3/7/2011 2:45:02 AM , Rating: 2
It's called product development. The helmet can still operate normally without the fancy features. The issues pointed out were the video feeds from the cameras around the aircraft.

In addition, many new technologies (like the current HUD) didn't come out perfect either. Takes years of testing and development (even after the product has been deployed) to get to where it is today.

Another note, HMD (Helmet mounted displays that replaces HUD) have been around since the 1990s with an example of Soviet-era German MIGs with HMDs conducting exercises with NATO F-16s.

HMD isn't new, it's been implemented in Russian, South African, Israeli, and possibly more countries. America just never really got into development until their new fighter programs.

Lag Kills
By Spacecomber on 3/1/2011 1:23:54 PM , Rating: 2
If it wasn't for the lag, I'd have had you Red Baron!

RE: Lag Kills
By Farfignewton on 3/1/2011 2:01:21 PM , Rating: 2
Actually, if it wasn't for the lag you would know you got him five shots ago.

RE: Lag Kills
By ARoyalF on 3/1/2011 6:24:49 PM , Rating: 2
Nah, Snoopy can just pre-fire and hope the hit box is where he thinks it is. Maybe they'll fix it in patch 1.61.....

This is lame
By zmatt on 3/1/2011 6:02:35 PM , Rating: 3
By color do they mean the video feeds to the helmet or do they mean the hud projected onto the visor? I have seen motorcycle helmets with color huds and backup camera in them before. There is no excuse that our pilots can't have this either.

RE: This is lame
By Solandri on 3/2/2011 2:13:29 AM , Rating: 3
These helmets have (or are supposed to have) a sort of free-floating HUD covering the entire front surface of the helmet. You sit in the cockpit and the HUD in the helmet overlays (say) target aircraft with a circle around them. The pilot turns his head, the HUD in the helmet tracks his movement, and moves the circles on the HUD to keep them centered on the actual positions of the aircraft in the sky.

The cameras the article is referring to are to cover blind spots. Primarily below the aircraft. That is, when the pilot looks down at his feet, he does not see just his feet and the floor of the cockpit. The helmet's HUD overlays an image from the down-looking camera so he can actually see what's beneath the aircraft - right through the floor.

The idea is to give the pilot total visibility around the plane, and complete situational awareness of everything the plane is tracking. It's an ambitious project, very science fiction-like in its concept. It's not at all surprising that they're having problems with it. A motorcycle helmet HUD is child's play in comparison. Google for f-35 HMDS if you want to know more.

Stop contracting from the 3rd world
By DoeBoy on 3/1/2011 6:34:25 PM , Rating: 5
They really need to stop hiring a bunch of cheap Indian programmers to do the job when all it takes is a well paid United States programmer.

RE: Stop contracting from the 3rd world
By leuNam on 3/2/11, Rating: 0
By trexpesto on 3/2/2011 11:58:15 AM , Rating: 1
hey don't be a racist fag. A lot of programmers that are good don't usually come from the US.

If this is not a joke, man think about what you just posted.
Kicking the dog AND poor grammar..
On the other hand, if it is a joke, quite arch.

By arthur449 on 3/1/2011 9:35:16 PM , Rating: 2
I keep trying to be upset about the F-35 program's delays, but that's an awesome looking helmet. And it has video feeds from cameras located all around the jet? That's some Macross technology there. Awesome!

By FITCamaro on 3/1/2011 11:34:02 PM , Rating: 2
Google EOTS and DAS.

By DEVGRU on 3/2/2011 1:00:19 PM , Rating: 2
That's some Macross technology there. Awesome!

Yeah, now if they'd just hurry up and invent protoculture...

Future Dailytech headline:
By US56 on 3/2/2011 12:14:14 PM , Rating: 4
"Helmet for F-35 Pilot to Cost More Than F-16"

By delphinus100 on 3/2/2011 7:24:46 PM , Rating: 2
"Use The Force, Luke!"

Good one
By bug77 on 3/1/2011 2:59:44 PM , Rating: 2
So, instead of a "traditional" HUD, the pilots will have a "futuristic" head-down flat panel display. Keep it up.

Hey They wanna Fix it?
By Pitbull0669 on 3/2/2011 9:01:36 AM , Rating: 2
Then just make it a Black Storm trooper helmet... :D its not far off now.Geeeeesh..... lol.

Wonder why
By omgwtf8888 on 3/4/2011 10:16:47 AM , Rating: 2
I wonder why we can transmit all flight and control data from a drone aircraft around the world to a flight controller, and we can't pump this data to the helmet via a wired connection.

I guess that if the helmet is successful a central hub for data, then the J35 could eventually have this data transmitted and the plane could be equipped for remote flying.

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