Wednesday, July 15, 2015

F-35 Magic Helmet

Defense Industry Daily website reports that Lockheed Martin received a $101.3M contract for production of 383 F-35 magic helmets (1).  That’s $256,000 per helmet.  It’s not clear from the contract announcement whether that is the total cost for the helmets or an incremental modification (2).  Previous estimates had put the helmet cost at $400,000 each.

Regardless, pilots, do not misplace your helmet!

The helmet, you’ll recall, is supposed to provide the magic that fuses all the F-35’s sensor data and allows the pilot to have 360 degree vision.  Of course, the helmet has been under development for a couple of decades and still has problems.  Hey, what do you want for a few hundred thousand dollars each?


  1. Let's make it worse (maybe).

    According to everything I've heard, the Pilots wearing the Magic Helmet can't even move their heads enough to see what's right besides them, let alone behind them. Apparently, the Helmets are also way-y-y-y too large and cumbersome in the cockpit, and collide with the seat, canopy, and everything else in there when the pilot reflexively tries to follow something (as they should).

    So, they're again throwing money at something that every ounce of logic indicates has very little to no chance of working out they way they want it to.
    (How typical for the Military Industrial Congressional Complex...)

    ...But that's just what I've heard on the grapevine.
    Has anyone here heard anything similar, or am I being misled?

    - Ray D.

  2. One of the titbits in the F16 vs F35 report that everyone seemed to ignore stated that the forward part of the helmet is forming an “eyebrow” that is interfering with following the target UP, and that the seat \ helmet combination is preventing the pilot from looking directly behind the plane.

    Inertialy the thing doesn’t look great. But does offer some critical advantages.
    I can’t help but think (like the F136 engine) that the alternate helmet was going better until it got canned.

    The BAE version was significantly more compact and developed for existing, working technology from the Typhoon. Take a look if you’ve not seen this version ;

    Admittedly it doesn’t LOOK quite so sci-fi, just compact and functional.

    It was actually flying on the F35 and rumour suggests doing better than the original, but I suspect political \ commercial issues saw and end to it.

    Pity, as you would think you might simply go with the best components if you want the best fighter?


  3. Sounds like one of those its good in concept but the devil is in the details. I read a couple of years ago that the first versions made the pilots sick, due to not updating quick enough and causing motion sickness, and when you can make a trained fighter pilot motion sick you know that its not ready for real world use

    On the other hand the civilian industry including some big names with big money are working hard on various Virtual Reality and Augmented Reality goggles that are going to be coming out this year. The early versions also had problems with making the users sick but the newer ones are fast and accurate enough that people using them report huge improvements. So maybe they can supply the technology to improve the helmet systems.

    Another place such a system is needed is in armored vehicles which suffer from a lack of situational awareness due to the limited vision they have. Cover the outside of the vehicle with lots of cheap cameras (think cell phone cameras) feed them into a central graphics processor which turn it all into a 3d model of the outside world, and then use VR/AR goggles to see everything in the area without having to stick your head out a hatch.

    1. DJF, remember that the problem isn't the helmet - any new technology will require years to get right. The problem is the attempt to put non-existent technology into production programs with utterly predictable results. Had we not included the magic helmet and 360 degree sensor fusion, we could have built a competent F-35 a couple decades ago when it might have been useful. Or, maybe we would have seen that it offered little improvement over existing aircraft? In any event, if and when the magic research proved out we could upgrade whatever aircraft we had or build new aircraft to utilize the technology.

      I love your idea for a virtual helmet for armored vehicles. They need it!

      Great comment.

    2. I agree, the military has far too many projects based on technology they don’t have yet. They try to schedule innovation and that rarely works.

      The helmet should have been a separate research project that is not included in any system procurement until it got to the point that it was shown to work.

      Just like on the USS Ford where they are still trying to find out if their new catapults, arrestor gear, radar and combat system will work. These all should have been separate land based research projects and when land based testing proved them to work should then have been incorporated into the next CVN design. Not building a 10 plus billion dollar CVN and hope that the new equipment would work on it. They are going to look bad with the world largest helo-carrier or maybe the F-35B is the backup plan?

  4. Remember
    People First
    Ideas Second
    Things Third


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