The World’s Most Expensive Fighter-Jet Helmet
The Lockheed Martin Lightning II or also known as the F-35 fighter-jet helmet has a price tag of over $400,000. That is an incredible amount for a piece of headgear but when you consider it in the context of the F-35, which was developed by America and our allies to effectively replace the existing strike aircraft and carries a price tag of anywhere between $148 and $337 million, it’s a steal. With such an outrageous cost one would surmise that pilots would be universally satisfied with and that is where you would be wrong.
"The helmet itself is a work of wonder. The F-35 helmet displays an image of the cockpit data along with targeting information displayed on the windscreen in front of them. It also takes images from six external cameras mounted around the aircraft on the helmet’s visor which allows the pilot to “look through” the aircraft at any angle."
Another feature of the visor is the ability to include info from satellites, other friendly aircrafts and military units on the ground which tracks by the pilot’s eyes through the helmet to be able to rapidly process/reposition images and symbols as they look around. This is gives pilots the added benefit of not having to process data from multiple cockpit display screens.
Developed by joint venture between Rockwell Collins and Elbit Systems, in conjunction with Lockheed Martin, the helmet, known as the Gen III Helmet Mounted Display System (HMDS) is an electronic marvel. But some think that the helmet is now so complex that when intricate kit breaks occur a pilot cannot simply borrow another pilot’s helmetto fly due to the HMDS being calibrated to an individual flyer. The reason for that is because the alignment of the pilot’s pupils for eye-tracking is a two-day lab job that only Rockwell Collins is authorized to conduct.
The helmet is also so large now that it restricts the head movement of the pilots in order to see enemy aircrafts. Some flight maneuvers can result in the helmet being pinned against the canopy therefore obstructing the display and thus inhibits the firing of the weapon. Furthermore, at 2.4kg, there are legitimate concerns of the helmet causing whiplash to a pilot in the event he is forced to eject. Sometimes exquisite and excessive technologies is not always an upgrade.
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