Pilots who climb into the cockpit of the F-35 stealth fighter to fly the costliest military plane ever built, will be wearing a helmet straight out of a science fiction movie.
These pilots, flying at Mach-1 at 50,000 feet, will have the ability to essentially look through the floor of the plane and see the ground, The Washington Postreported in its series on military advancements called The Arsenal.
There are six cameras in the fighter’s ‘skin’ and, when working correctly, can pick up sensors for when the pilot moves his head.
The situational awareness, developers say, will give these pilots an unsurpassed advantage.
The helmet’s visor does more than shield the pilot’s eyes; it will inform the pilot about the health of the jet, including remaining fuel and altitude and provide pilots with night-vision.
The helmet is similar to the jet in production because they are almost as famous for their production issues as their capabilities. The report said the Pentagon hired a company to set up a back-up helmet in case more issues arrived. Pilots are reportedly flying with the third model helmet made by Rockwell Collins.
The company said in a statement that the helmet provides “the F-35 aviator unmatched situational awareness.” The F-35 Gen III Mounted Display System offers revolutionary technology, the company said, with active noise reduction, a custom fit for pilots and video capability.
“Testing is an ongoing process,” Air Force Lt. Gen. Chris Bogdan, the program’s executive officer, told The Post. “And if you find problems we try to fix them and look ahead.”
The paper said pilots are flying tests with the new model and have seen improvements. There are reportedly still issues with software at times.
The F-35 is the Pentagon’s most expensive weapons program, with an estimated cost of nearly $400 billion and has been widely criticized for its price tag. The program aims to replace a wide range of existing aircraft for the U.S. and several partner countries.
The F-35 is the world’s only “fifth generation” fighter jet, combining state-of-the art stealth technology with highly advanced avionics and maneuverability. The first F-35 flew in 2006, and 42 have been produced so far. China and Russia are working on rival — and some experts say superior — aircraft.
“Simply put, there is no alternative to the F-35 program. It must succeed,” Secretary of the Air Force Michael Donley said in September.