The F-35 Helmet

Unprecedented Situational Awareness

The F-35’s Helmet Mounted Display Systems provide pilots with unprecedented situational awareness. All the information pilots need to complete their missions – airspeed, heading, altitude, targeting information and warnings – is projected on the helmet’s visor, rather than on a traditional Heads-up Display. This approach greatly reduces the pilot’s workload and increases responsiveness. Additionally, the F-35’s Distributed Aperture System (DAS) streams real-time imagery from six infrared cameras mounted around the aircraft to the helmet, allowing pilots to “look through” the airframe. The helmet also provides pilots night vision through the use of an integrated camera.

Overcoming Technical Obstacles

In 2011, program and industry officials acknowledged that there were technical issues facing the principal helmet system. To ensure viable combat capability was available when needed, the program began a dual-path development plan as a risk-management strategy in the event maturity issues facing the helmet could not be resolved. BAE Systems began developing the alternate helmet in September 2011.

Since 2011, the program has developed and begun implementing solutions for the principal helmet's primary areas of concern – night vision acuity, symbology jitter, DAS latency and green glow. As a result of the recently demonstrated maturity of the baseline helmet, the F-35 Joint Program Office decided to halt development of the alternate F-35 helmet in October 2013 and focus exclusively on maturing the Rockwell Collins Elbit Systems of America Vision Systems Generation 3 helmet. The program will recoup approximately $45 million in funds it had originally allocated for the development of the alternate helmet.

“The government's decision to proceed exclusively with the principal helmet is indicative of their confidence in the helmet's performance and the successful resolution of previously identified technical challenges,” said Lorraine Martin, Lockheed Martin executive vice president and general manager of the F-35 Lightning II Program.

Every F-35 pilot wears the helmet for every test, training and operational mission. Hear one pilot’s perspective: