F-35 HMDS Pulls the Gs
DID recently covered the JHMCS helmet-mounted display system that equips American “teen series” fighters around the world, and explained its importance to air combat in the 21st century. The Elbit Systems/ Rockwell-Collins joint venture Vision Systems International, LLC (VSI) in San Jose, CA is also designing the Helmet Mounted Display System (HMDS) for the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter, which kicks the JHMCS concept up several notches. It provides day or night imagery that applies to both air and ground attacks, and features advanced head tracking capability with near-zero latency, in order to provide a virtual heads-up display and imagery screen anywhere the pilot’s head moves. Since the F-35 will be the first tactical fighter jet in over 30 years to fly without a Head Up Display above its instrument panels, this capability is mandatory and HMDS will ship with the F-35s to all domestic and international F-35 customers.
VSI received a significant development contract in February 2006, and their product first flew aboard an F-35 in January 2007. The British will be receiving the F-35B STOVL(Short Take-Off, Vertical Landing) variant for use on their new carriers, and so the Royal Air Force Centre for Aviation Medicine at MoD Boscombe Down was good enough to put the F-35 HMDS through its paces. Pilots from the RAF, U.S. Air Force, Lockheed Martin and BAE Systems flew 2 specially modified BAE Hawk T Mk1s in flight regimes ranging from -2g to +9.5g. Their objective was to verify comfort, fit and stability under high G conditions.
Since the F-35B is only designed to +7g, this is beyond the RAF’s planned flight regime; but the carrier-based F-35C is designed to +7.5g loads, and the standard F-35A will be the most maneuverable with a design stressed for +9g maneuvers. Additional RAF flights with the VSI HMD have been underway through September and October 2007. VSI release.