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The Military Displays

"Magic Helmet" For F-35 Ready For Delivery 184

Posted by samzenpus
from the watch-your-six-and-stay-frosty dept.
Graculus writes with news that the so called "magic helmets" for the controversial F-35 are ready for action. This week, Lockheed Martin officially took delivery of a key part of the F-35 fighter's combat functionality—the pilot's helmet. The most expensive and complicated piece of headgear ever constructed, the F-35 Gen III Helmet Mounted Display System (HMDS) is one of the multipurpose fighter's most critical systems, and it's essential to delivering a fully combat-ready version of the fighter to the Marine Corps, the Navy, and the Air Force. But it almost didn't make the cut because of software problems and side effects akin to those affecting 3D virtual reality headsets.

Built by Rockwell Collins ESA Vision Systems International (a joint venture between Rockwell Collins and the Israeli defense company Elbit Systems), the HMDS goes way beyond previous augmented reality displays embedded in pilots' helmets. In addition to providing the navigational and targeting information typically shown in a combat aircraft's heads-up display, the HMDS also includes aspects of virtual reality, allowing a pilot to look through the plane. Using a collection of six high-definition video and infrared cameras on the fighter's exterior called the Distributed Aperture System (DAS), the display extends vision a full 360 degrees around the aircraft from within the cockpit. The helmet is also equipped with night vision capabilities via an infrared sensor that projects imagery inside the facemask
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"Magic Helmet" For F-35 Ready For Delivery

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  • by NoKaOi (1415755) on Thursday July 24, 2014 @07:04PM (#47526495)

    FTA:

    The helmet runs for about $600,000, which doesn't include software integration with the aircraft’s systems.

    • by oobayly (1056050)

      Don't worry, it'll come down in price:

      The helmet runs for about $600,000, ... But Lockheed Martin hopes the cost will drop as production ramps up.

      Yup, I can see production really ramping up for the F-35. Like most things in life, it's possibly to build something to do everything, just don't be upset when it does everything badly.

      • by peragrin (659227)

        The F-16 was overpriced for its time. The F-15 took years to work out the bugs. The f-16 was designedin the 70's. Continuing to use70's tech is stupid. Do you still drive a 70's car?

        • Re:Cost (Score:5, Insightful)

          by Jeremi (14640) on Thursday July 24, 2014 @08:47PM (#47527207) Homepage

          Do you still drive a 70's car?

          If the price of a new car was $180M, I would definitely stick with my trusty 70s car.

          • by timeOday (582209)
            Then I suggest you not enter any races in which the loser will die.
            • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

              by Anonymous Coward

              Races are a voluntary event just like air battles.

              The USA is not currently in danger of being invaded and does not currently need a $1 trillion fighter jet. We could have instead used this period of relative calm to assess our needs in a 5th generation fighter and been smart about designing and manufacturing it.

              Instead, we immediately handed over an unbelievably high sum of money to the first defense contractor who shit something out in powerpoint. Then we repeatedly shoved more and more money into their

            • Then I suggest you not enter any races in which the loser will die.

              I would suggest that you give more thought to 'races' where outnumbering the opponent and firing anti-aircraft weapons at them from the ground is acceptable...

              Even if we suspect that a nasty shooting war with a modern adversary is in the cards, it's a bit of a problem that our current next generation super plane costs so much that we'll necessarily have them in quite limited numbers and be unwilling and (in a conflict of any nontrivial size or duration) unable to expose them to serious risks.

              This is

              • > This is especially bad if they turn out to be seriously vulnerable to any missile system developed that isn't ruinously expensive per shot or a closely held secret used only by somebody's elite guard

                Or if, say, the very large and expensive amount of fuel used b supersonic aircraft can be cut off by the opposing force bombing the oil lines from their own country that we relied on to get cheap fuel. It's a bit of a conundrum when the country you're invading is a major source of your fuel. Or if what you

              • \ TL;DR

                Quantity has a Quality all of its own.
          • Do you still drive a 70's car?

            If the price of a new car was $180M, I would definitely stick with my trusty 70s car.

            Depends on if you're up against other 70s cars or something more recent that could wipe your muscle car off the road.

            What's the requirement?
            What's the cost of meeting the requirement?

        • by pesho (843750)
          Oh we are using the car analogy, aren't we? Well let's see... If my brand new 21st century car has the same speed, larger turning radius, shorter range, smaller trunk, costs 10 times more to buy and is more expensive to run.... yes I would stick to my 70's car. F35 is akin to the German Tiger and Panter tanks in WWII. They were technical marvels. Could destroy any tank on such distance that the opposition wouldn't know what hit them. But it didn't matter, because for every Tiger produced there were ~30 she
          • Its main advantage is its ability to integrate sensor information from multiple sources. But this does not warrant building a hugely expensive fighter from scratch. Put the same system on an F18 and F16 and you will have even more capable fighter.

            The F-35, AKA Joint Strike Fighter, is more akin to what happened to the Space Shuttle - it's a single aircraft that is suppose to meet the needs of all the different branches. This also why the Space shuttle was such a brick to fly, so costly, and had wings. Hopefully the F-35 won't meet the same end.

      • If the hardware is sufficiently general, wouldn't it be possible to use in other airplanes, or even in remote drone control? That is, if economy of scale is the problem.
    • FTA:

      The helmet runs for about $600,000, which doesn't include software integration with the aircraft’s systems.

      How would you like to be the first guy to drop one of these... you know it's going to happen...

      • On the plus side, they might actually survive that. If memory serves aircraft helmets (while probably not as concerned with ballistics as infantry ones) are supposed to at least not endanger the pilot, and ideally to protect him, during fairly violent maneuvers like ejection.

        That said, I wouldn't want to be the lucky guy who gets to find out.
  • Elmer Fudd (Score:5, Funny)

    by cascadingstylesheet (140919) on Thursday July 24, 2014 @07:07PM (#47526513)
    Spear and magic helllllemt!
  • Outstanding... (Score:5, Interesting)

    by JaredOfEuropa (526365) on Thursday July 24, 2014 @07:09PM (#47526531) Journal
    Now all we need is a functional aircraft...
    • That's what I thought when the UK announced their new aircraft carrier recently.
    • by dywolf (2673597)

      the aircraft is functional with several squadrons already stood up and operating. the mechs are already training in how to maintain it. pilots are already running training missions to become proficient.

      the helmet is not required to operate the aircraft, and in many ways should have been its own research and development project, simply because of its own complexity. but once completed the helmet and its systems oan be retrofitted to most any aircraft dramatically increasing pilot capability and awareness.

      the

  • by Anonymous Coward

    that's embroiled in the Social Security IT boondoggle?!?

    It's boondoggles all the way down!!!

    • Lockheed Martin is a major defense contractor. They do damn near everything. They're practically a part of the government. Military-industrial complex and all that.
  • Does this thing acutally work or is it as bugridden as the rest of the F-35? I sure would not want to be sitting in an F-35 when the rendering software has a buffering issue or just plain segfaults in the middle of a dogfight.

    • Re:Bugs... (Score:5, Interesting)

      by roc97007 (608802) on Thursday July 24, 2014 @07:35PM (#47526677) Journal

      Not sure it'll see many dogfights in any case. I'm told that the F35 is the largest, heaviest fighter with an airframe that produces the most drag, that the US has ever produced, and the huge engine that makes it fly puts out a very clear heat signature without providing much range, speed or maneuverability. It's been described as "can't run, can't fight, can't hide", and missions assume that older fighters go ahead and clean up the resistance so the F35 can complete its mission unchallenged. So, I'd imagine that if the F35 finds itself in a dogfight, something has gone very wrong with the mission.

      • by pkinetics (549289)

        Another flying bus!!! So much for Col John Boyd and the E-M modeling...

        History, we don't need to learn no history!

      • by alen (225700)

        the AWACS are there to guide the F-35 to kill enough aircraft first so there is no dog fight

      • What was wrong with the F-22 that the F-35 was going to fix?
        • Re:I'm curious (Score:4, Informative)

          by roc97007 (608802) on Thursday July 24, 2014 @08:05PM (#47526903) Journal

          What was wrong with the F-22 that the F-35 was going to fix?

          I am out of my element a bit here, but my understanding is that the F22 is an air superiority fighter only, whereas the F35 was supposed to be a multirole aircraft (air-to-air and air-to-ground) with (optional) VTOL features, (which no version of the F22 has) all in the same airframe. It was supposed to be the Windows 8 of fighter aircraft, a single airframe to take the place of a bunch of other craft.

          ...and apparently, it works about as well as you would expect of those types of solutions...

          And, it was (giggle) supposed to (snerk) be (Bwaaaa haa haaa) affordable. Sorry, I can't say that with a straight face.

          • What was wrong with the F-22 that the F-35 was going to fix?

            I am out of my element a bit here, but my understanding is that the F22 is an air superiority fighter only, whereas the F35 was supposed to be a multirole aircraft (air-to-air and air-to-ground) with (optional) VTOL features, (which no version of the F22 has) all in the same airframe. It was supposed to be the Windows 8 of fighter aircraft, a single airframe to take the place of a bunch of other craft.

            ...and apparently, it works about as well as you would expect of those types of solutions...

            And, it was (giggle) supposed to (snerk) be (Bwaaaa haa haaa) affordable. Sorry, I can't say that with a straight face.

            Pretty much. It has similarities to the relationship between the F-15 and F-16 development projects. One was built to do one thing, the other was built as a response to it when it started getting out of control. A kind of "Little and large" relationship. Though now the f35 has gotten out of control...sheesh :(

          • by jd2112 (1535857)

            What was wrong with the F-22 that the F-35 was going to fix?

            I am out of my element a bit here, but my understanding is that the F22 is an air superiority fighter only, whereas the F35 was supposed to be a multirole aircraft (air-to-air and air-to-ground) with (optional) VTOL features, (which no version of the F22 has) all in the same airframe. It was supposed to be the Windows 8 of fighter aircraft, a single airframe to take the place of a bunch of other craft.

            ...and apparently, it works about as well as you would expect of those types of solutions...

            And, it was (giggle) supposed to (snerk) be (Bwaaaa haa haaa) affordable. Sorry, I can't say that with a straight face.

            So, it's a flying Swiss Army Knife. Sure, it has a spork, scissors, tweezers, a nail file, a screwdriver, and a dozen other tools and perhaps even a knife in there somewhere for good measure but it sucks as any of them.

        • Cost.

        • The F-22 is the special fighter with all of the extras that the US is keeping for just itself while the F-35 is able to be exported to other countries.
        • by jkmartin (816458)
          There is a PBS Nova documentary (Battle of the X Planes) that explains that if you took fighter development and acquisition costs and graphed it out that in 50 years you would be spending the entire defense budget on 1 plane. The Air Force would fly the plane 4 days a week, the Navy 3 days a week, and the Marines could have it once every 4 years on leap day.

          The F-35 was supposed to address the soaring costs by use of a fairly standard airframe and parts across 3 distinct users. The F-35 would also prov
        • The F-35 was supposed to be cheaper and sold to US partners. Sort of like the F-16.

          It turns out it is costing more per plane than the F-22 however.

        • by citizenr (871508)

          It didnt have a turret, enough armor, and couldnt swim.

          * https://www.youtube.com/watch?... [youtube.com]

      • It depends on what role they want the F-35 to play, I've seen that it was designed alternatively either as a fighter or multirole aircraft. As a swing-role or multirole craft this could easily dominate. As a fighter, that is harder to see for the very reasons you brought up...size, drag etc...but the stealth and electronic warfare packages, which I assume this helmet plays a major role in monitoring and interfacing, might be a trump card that overcomes it's deficiencies in air-to-air and air superiority c

        • by roc97007 (608802)

          About the ECM, the story is that the F35 only has effective ECM in the same frequency range that it's own radar uses -- effectively limiting it to C band. It has stealth features, but they are largely negated by the heat put out by that huge engine. These two weaknesses sum up the "can't hide" part of the F35's deficiencies.

          Mind you, I've been out of the war toys business for many years. I only know what I've read. But it's not promising.

      • Re:Bugs... (Score:4, Informative)

        by timeOday (582209) on Thursday July 24, 2014 @09:29PM (#47527513)

        I'm told that the F35 is the largest, heaviest fighter with an airframe that produces the most drag, that the US has ever produced...

        And where did you hear it? According to wikipedia:

        Wingspan:
        F35: 35'
        F14: 64' / 38' (swept)
        F15: 42'
        F16: 32'
        F18 C/D: 40'

        Empty Weight
        F35: 29,000 lb
        F14: 43,700 lb
        F15: 28,000 lb
        F16: 18,900 lb
        F18: 23,000 lb

        Combat radius (internal stores)
        F35: 600 nm
        F14: 500 nm
        F15: 1000 nm
        F16: 340 nm
        F18: 400 nm

        Of what can be verified, none of what you heard is correct...

      • by Xest (935314)

        Every new aircraft gets slated to hell though, people were saying the harrier jump jet was useless for similar reasons. The idea of a VTOL aircraft useful in both air to air and air to ground was an impossible ineffective pipe dream according to many.

        Yet it's still in use by the US now and has seen more combat than most other jets having been engaged in everything from the Falklands, to Iraq (both times) to Afghanistan.

        You only really know how great an aircraft is when it's tried and tested in combat, every

    • by roc97007 (608802)

      It's not bug-ridden, it's handy-capable.

    • by PopeRatzo (965947)

      Can you call them "bugs" when they were specific design specifications?

      The F-35 is a $300billion dollar abomination. Earlier today, there was a story about a $300million dollar IT mess in federal government and there were howls of outrage.

      This useless plane is 1000 times more expensive and unlike the IT mess, the plane's "bugs" are there by design.

  • Check out the groupthink.

  • Now that we have the Magic Helmet, is somebody going to develop the spear [wikipedia.org] that's supposed to go with it?
  • by Anonymous Coward

    Leave the pilot on the ground and you won't need a fancy helmet.

  • by Goldenhawk (242867) on Thursday July 24, 2014 @10:04PM (#47527805) Homepage

    This video
      http://www.c-span.org/video/?c... [c-span.org]
    shows the symbology and operation of the helmet as a reporter wears it. It's expensive, yes, but it's revolutionary.

  • by NotSoHeavyD3 (1400425) on Thursday July 24, 2014 @10:40PM (#47528039)
    Why wouldn't you pretty much use this in every fighter plane we use. (I mean besides having to come up with upgraded electronics for the F-15, F-16, F-18, ETC) Why tie it to the F-35?
    • by dywolf (2673597)

      that is the eventual goal, and the helmet probably should have been its own development project.

      that said, just "adding" something to existing airframes is difficult. unless you've worked on planes, you probably have no idea just how cramped for space they are internally with all the avionics boxes and wiring (miles and miles of wiring)

  • by msobkow (48369)

    An Israeli defense company, eh?

    Well, no one is quite the expert at mass murder that the Israelis are, as they're proving in Gaza right now by butchering 4 civilians for every enemy "soldier" that they kill.

    Can you imagine the uproar if 80% of those killed in Afghanistan by US forces were civilians?

    • > Can you imagine the uproar if 80% of those killed in Afghanistan by US forces were civilians?

      They mostly are civilian casualties. Much of what's happening now in Afghanistan is guerrilla warfare, not military forces.

  • This plane is an ef'ing joke, at least from my perspective as Canadian ex-military. Does not operate well in cold weather, and has only one engine. If you lose an engine while patrolling the arctic, you go down. This is an overpriced, overcomplicated piece of shit. Our government has produced at least two reports that have stated that this is an inappropriate and overpriced solution for what we need, yet regardless the federal government (across two parties) seems to keep trying to back it, and even now, an

    • by PPH (736903)

      pay Canadian companies to produce a world-class, well-designed and actually useful aircraft

      We could sell you some Bomarcs [wikipedia.org] instead. Our foreign curtomers will buy what we tell them to. So price and performance aren't issues (to us).

  • It'll win all the dog fights US engages in these days! Priorities people, come on.

      Benghazi. Deathpanels. Look over there!

  • The main characters' name was Mingolla. He was in a war in the near future in Central America. The chopper pilots wore these helmets that they never took off; they claimed the helmets let them see the future, the helmets told them he would get wounded but in a good way - just enough to get sent home.

    Can't recall the name of the story though.
  • you have to think in Russian! :)

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