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Helmet Display Issues Are Being Resolved
The F-35 development program continues to execute to the baseline approved at the March 2012 Milestone B recertification Defense Acquisition Board. In addition to software challenges, the three F-35 variants are encountering the types of development problems typically experienced on advanced state-of-the-art, high performance aircraft development programs at this stage of maturity. While we still have technical risks on the program. “I have confidence that the known technical issues we have will be solved and properly integrated into the F-35.” Bogdan stated.
One of the main obstacles is a state of the art Helmet Mounted Display System (HMDS) developed specifically for F-35 by VSI Inc., a joint venture of Rockwell Collins and Elbit Systems of America; This helmet is providing the main flight display for the pilot, hence, its critical role in the safety and operational performance of the aircraft. The system faced several issues over the past year, including ‘green glow’ resulting from insufficient helmet display contrast, and latency of the displayed information, causing ‘jitter’ (lack of stability of the displayed symbology). Another issue was the night vision acuity and alignment, limiting night flying capability.
“We executed a short flight test program from November 2012 to March 2013 dedicated solely to exploring and understanding the helmet problems using developmental and operational test pilots flying a number of operationally representative missions.” [ismember]Bogdan told the Senate committee. As a result of this testing, the program now understands and has mitigated the effects of ‘green glow’, latency, jitter and alignment. Additional work still needs to be done to ensure that the program has a night vision camera that is effective for operations as our testing indicated that the current night vision camera is unsuitable for operational use.
As risk reduction, the program continues to fund development of a night vision goggle-based alternative helmet solution from BAE Systems – a practice currently performed by the Marine Corps flying F/A-18 and AV-8B. “The goggle-based helmet development will continue until we see demonstrated improvement in all of the risk areas of the original helmet and until the government has secured a price agreement with the prime contractor showing significant cost reduction in the original helmet.” Bogdan said.[/ismember]
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Other topics addressed by Bogdan were: