$400,000 helmet for F-35 fighter pilots ‘absolutely’ worth the money, creator says

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A helmet designed to allow F-35 fighter pilots to “look through” the eyes of their plane is worth every penny according to its creators Rockwell Collins.

The F-35 Gen III Helmet Mounted Display System comes with a price tag between $300,000 and $400,000 (£216,000 - £288,000).

Created from a bubble of carbon fibre, the helmet provides the pilot flying the multi-million-pound jet with information on airspeed, altitude, targeting information and other warnings, all inside the visor.

It includes a heads-up display, helmet-mounted display and visor-projected night vision that allows pilots to see in the dark without separate night-vision goggles

Pilots can target their weapons and maintain advanced spatial orientation while continually monitoring critical flight information.

When pressed on whether the futuristic head gear was worth the hefty price tag, Rockwell Collins engineer Jeff Crow said “absolutely”.

“This is replacing multiple systems on the aircraft,” he said.

“There is no heads-up display that has to be purchased, there is no night-vision goggles the pilots have to interchange and it can also be used in the simulator, so they don’t have to purchase a separate one.”

Crow, who is based at the company’s headquarters in Iowa, US, said the helmet was designed specifically for use in the warplane.

“All the symbology is displayed on the helmet. There is no piece of glass in front of the pilot, it is all right in his eye,” he said.

Image credit: rockwell collins

The helmet can also utilise the six infrared cameras on the jet, with the feed displayed to the pilot inside the visor allowing them to “look through the bottom of the cockpit”, Crow said.

“It gives the pilot unparalleled situational awareness by taking out the aircraft as they are looking around.”

The helmets are custom-fitted for each pilot, so it “fits their head like a glove”, keeping it in place even during extreme acrobatic manoeuvres and also features noise-cancellation technology.

“It has to stay very tight on their head because under G force we cannot have that symbology moving around; it has to stay very accurate,” he added.

Last year, Air Commodore Lincoln Taylor, the RAF assistant chief of staff, told the House of Commons Defence Committee he “did not recognise” reports that the F-35 pilots’ helmets would cost £309,000 each and said issues with the helmet’s night vision which reportedly left a test pilot unsighted had been “resolved”.

British businesses such as R E Thompson, Martin-Baker and Survitec Group that are involved in the construction of components used in the F-35s have said it has played a vital role in the success of their companies.

With more than 3,000 of the cutting-edge warplanes set to be produced over the coming decades, 15 per cent of each aircraft will be UK-made.

Lockheed Martin, the American aviation giant manufacturing the multi-million-pound supersonic planes, said the programme has generated $12.9bn in contracts for British suppliers.

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