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When Looks Can Kill 314

Ben Sullivan writes "From the Los Angeles Times: "Test pilots here are flying with sophisticated helmets, resembling a bug's eye, that allow them to aim their weapons and sensors simply by looking at potential targets on the ground or in the air. The helmets, when coupled with a highly maneuverable new missile that is close to deployment, would enable fighter pilots to look over their shoulders and fire instantly at targets, a feat that until now has been matched only in science fiction movies." Development was done by San Jose-based Vision Systems International, a joint venture of defense electronics maker Rockwell Collins Inc. and Israeli's Elbit. Raytheon makes the sharp-turning AIM-9X missile."
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When Looks Can Kill

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  • Car (Score:3, Funny)

    by 0xB ( 568582 ) on Saturday April 06, 2002 @06:21PM (#3296645)
    I'm half-way through putting one of these in my car - leaves my hands free to drink coffee, tune the radio etc.
    Come Monday morning, if you're driving in Portland, OR, you might want to take extra care at junctions until I've got the bugs ironed out.
    • Just make sure your you're looking straight ahead when crossing that Fremont bridge, it's a bitch!

      Now, if I could cross the I-5 bridge heading south hands-free, I'd pay some serious dollars.
      • Why is it so many people choose to use their .sigs to brag about how they're already at Karma=50? It's not that hard to do.

  • About time! (Score:2, Informative)

    by vjlen ( 187941 )
    The Russians have had helmet mounted sights and versions of the Archer AAM that can come off the launch rail at absurd angles for versions of the Mig-29 and Su-27 for some time now. Coupled with an infrared search and track sensor, they can mount a passive attack, no radar warning at all.
    • Re:About time! (Score:2, Insightful)

      Last year the Pentagon awarded Raytheon an 18-year contract valued at $3 billion to produce more than 10,000 missiles for both the Navy and the Air Force.

      This sounds sort of like the tale of NASA spending millions to develop a pen that works in zero-G environments. The Russian's, when confronted with the same problem, used a pencil.

      It sounds strange to rely on a missile that has a tight turning radius when all you have to do is swivel the launch rails. Surely the problem of how to swivel the launch rails is easier to solve than how to make a missile turn better.

      That being said, there are many other benefits to a tight-turn-radius missile.
      • m
      • Re:About time! (Score:3, Informative)

        by RKloti ( 517839 )
        NASA developed no such space pen. That is an urban legend. []
      • It sounds strange to rely on a missile that has a tight turning radius when all you have to do is swivel the launch rails. Surely the problem of how to swivel the launch rails is easier to solve than how to make a missile turn better.


        If I were ever on afterburner trying to kill someone, I'd hate for anything to fuck up my directional control. Let the missiles turn when they leave the rails. Let them turn really, really fast, so that when they field these helmets, I can aim at something without flying at it head on or wasting time, gas and risking my life trying to stare up its tailpipe.

      • Re:About time! (Score:4, Interesting)

        by Moofie ( 22272 ) <lee@ringofsatur n . c om> on Sunday April 07, 2002 @12:46AM (#3297616) Homepage
        The problem with swiveling your launch rails is that the airstream does not swivel too. When your aircraft is flying 500 knots, and you try to turn your missile to, say, 90 degrees off the heading angle and launch the missile, the missile will immediately begin tumbling and be utterly uncontrollable. You might be able to make a missile that could be launched successfully at 90 degrees, but that design would not work for 120 degrees. Or zero degrees.

        In other words, I would argue that your conclusion is erroneous. Making a missile turn tightly is accomplished with thrust vectoring and other clever aerodynamic tricks. Doing as you suggest would take, well, antigravity, I think. : )

        In order to successfully design a high-speed aircraft, it's very important to know which direction it is going to fly. There are, to date, exactly zero exceptions to this rule.

        • Re:About time! (Score:3, Interesting)

          by sane? ( 179855 )
          Except the Russians have a missile that can be fired rearward, and I've seen the video to prove it.

          Yes its difficult to control, but its doable.

          Thrust vectoring is OK as an approach, fairly old hat. However there are some problems with it in complexity/lifetime terms.

          The question is not so much what this story is about - this is all fairly old stuff. The question is third party datalinking, high data rate sensors, and high speed terminal manoever.

          And as has been said elsewhere, getting those dammed pilots out of the cockpit and on the ground where they belong.

    • Re:About time! (Score:4, Informative)

      by singularity ( 2031 ) <> on Saturday April 06, 2002 @06:59PM (#3296792) Homepage Journal
      I am not one to complain about people not reading the article, but this seems like a clear case of it. Almost all posts on this story so far have been about how the Soviets and the Apache helicoptor have had systems similar to this before.

      The article mentions the fact that the Soviets designed such a system years ago.

      The Apache system also only used a machine gun.

      This seems to be much more advanced however.The article mentions the ability to target ground targets for sateelite targetted missles. In addition, this system coupled with AA missles able to make very tight turns means that the pilot does not have to be behind the other plane in order to take down the target.

      As the Slashdot story says, the pilot would have the ability to *look over his shoulder* and still target and take out another plane. This would require an AA missle capable of making a reletively tight 180 degree turn and still be able to hit its target.
      • by Paradise Pete ( 33184 ) on Saturday April 06, 2002 @08:09PM (#3297020) Journal
        Almost all posts on this story so far have been about how the Soviets and the Apache helicoptor have had systems similar to this before.

        That's because on Slashdot there are only two possible responses to a story about new technology:

        A: This is nothing new, my cousin's friend knew a guy who did something vaguely similar once before.
        B: This can't possibly work because it has no foundation.

        • A: This is nothing new, my cousin's friend knew a guy who did something vaguely similar once before.
          B: This can't possibly work because it has no foundation.

          Well, actually, that's not a terrible, if somewhat overly conservative, viewpoint to have...for most problems in the real world, smart people have been trying to solve them with varying degrees of success, and I'd wager that most of the useful work is evolutionary, not revolutionary, so this pair of responses aren't as bad as you seem to imply.

          • Except that these folks are the ones who have just accomplished the "evolutionary" work. It's just that the media needs to call everything "revolutionary." So in effect, by saying it's okay to treat these things with those two ridiculous responses, you're saying it's okay to flippantly dismiss that hard work.

            Also, it's called sarcasm. He was employing it beautiflly.
    • Re:About time! (Score:2, Informative)

      by T-Punkt ( 90023 )
      And somewhat related:
      With the unification of Germany the Luftwaffe got some Fulcrums with AA-11 Archer missiles and noticed that it was superior to the current version of sidewinder missile they had (AIM-9L) in all ways (homing, maneuverability) and started with some other nations (Canada, Norway, Seden, Italy, Greece) devoloping a new missile called IRIS-T (AIM-120) which will work with a helmet sight like the AA-11 as well.

      Seems like the US of A is a little late here...
      • Re:About time! (Score:3, Informative)

        by Moofie ( 22272 )
        The AIM-120 is the best medium range missile in the world, and it is American (and widely licensed to our allies). It is a semi-active radar homing missile, meaning that it initially requires a radar fix from the mother aircraft to target the adversary. As it approaches the target, it activates its own radar for final intercept. It's a very smart bird, and is difficult for its target to detect.

        It also has a 100% combat launch to kill ratio.

        That's why the US hasn't been on the cutting edge of short-range missile development. They have been concentrating on improving their medium-range missile so that they never have to have a short-range fight, and then spending lots of money on pilot training.

        Not an ideal strategy, IMO, but it's been darn successful so far.

        IRIS-T is not the same thing. IRIS-T is a next-generation short-range missile, similar in capabilities to the AIM-9x.

        Incidentally, the major reason that the US has not employed helmet mounted sights is weight. The heavy helmets used by the Russians are dangerous to the pilot in an ejection, and it's not a risk the US has been willing to take. The next-generation lightweight helmets in development for the F-22 and JSF will solve this problem.

        So, yes, the US is sorta behind, but only in a very limited sense and for what I feel are good reasons.
    • Alas, the Russian system isn't exactly that great given the combat record of the MiG-29 so far. When has the MiG-29 shot down our current generation of fighters?
  • alredy been done... (Score:1, Informative)

    by sonicstorm ( 538673 )
    This isn't anything too ground-breaking, the Russian MiG-29 has had a similar system in operation for years now.
  • The future, as predicted by the visionary movie Firefox is coming true! Next thing you know we'll have to think at our computers in Russian...
  • How will the (no doubt) massive investment of government money involved in developing instruments of war like this improve human society? Even if you believe that wars and military power can improve the world, you must concede that the United States already has by far the most technologically advanced military in the world, and even without devices like this no other country can seriously challenge the United States in a conventional war (and no amount of technological superiority can ultimately stop fanatics armed with box cutters). And every cent that funds new high-tech killing instruments is one cent that doesn't go to fight very serious problems of disease, starvation, and poverty.
    • You want to know when "enough is enough"? When the rest of the world's military powers appear to be using muskets as compared to our gear of that future day. Our goal is now to be so far advanced of any other country that it would be sheer fantasy to even entertain the notion of conflict.
      • You want to know when "enough is enough"? When the rest of the world's military powers appear to be using muskets as compared to our gear of that future day.

        Yeah, right. If you take the entire axis of evil, and throw in a few other countries around the region, its outpowered by the US about 3 to 1.

        The only way you can meet anyone in the air with weapons even vaguely threatening to the US is if the US sells them to that person in the first place. Please bear in mind that this is just how most of these places got their weapons in the first place. Iran, Iraq and Afganistan have had, over the last 15 years a great deal of military support from the US.

        The point is, the US doesn't really need better weapons, and certainly not on the scale it produces them. It does need to stop giving them away and selling them to governments and rebel groups in third world countries because of a (usually very short term) intervention.

        Think it through - since the fall of the soviet union the supply of military equipment to the third world has come predominantly from the US. (Who else do you think has the technology to make it)?

        Ok, enough preaching - my take home message: If you want the US to have overwhelming military strength, thats easy - stop selling and giving your weapons away.

        My 2c worth. (There goes my karma!)


    • There is a reason we are so far advanced than everyone. It's simple, constant R&D to always, "one up" everyone else.
    • by flacco ( 324089 ) on Saturday April 06, 2002 @06:30PM (#3296679)
      Even if you believe that wars and military power can improve the world, you must concede that the United States already has by far the most technologically advanced military in the world

      Heeeeeeeeere's - CHINA!

      Military capability is not static. Think 20-30 years from now.

      • Military capability is not static. Think 20-30 years from now.

        Especially after the US has bankrupted its Treasury fighting an endless war against an abstract noun.

    • I'll play devil's advocate.

      Firstly, military technology has had many beneficial spinoffs - such as the Internet. It can be argued that other publically funded research is a better investment of our dollars, and produces more beneficial spinoffs per dollar spent. However, the spinoffs of military technology definitely improve human society.

      Secondly, it is not true that we will remain militarily invincible forever. It would be *more* true if we stopped exporting our best, or next-to best, military technology to whichever fascist regime we wanted to prop up today, but nonetheless, if we stopped improving our military the rest of the world would eventually catch up. Bribing our defense sector with huge amounts of cash money helps to prevent our existing defense technology from percolating into the rest of the world - espionage against US defense contractors would be hugely easier if they were not flush with cash. Obviously, this doesn't prevent all bribery of the defense industry (the two things that human beings possess in potentially infinite amounts being greed and stupidity) but it helps.

      Thirdly, R&D, while more expensive for the military than for any other
      • Secondly, it is not true that we will remain militarily invincible forever. It would be *more* true if we stopped exporting our best, or next-to best, military technology to whichever fascist regime we wanted to prop up today, but nonetheless, if we stopped improving our military the rest of the world would eventually catch up.

        I understand that you have no knowlege about first wave of Turkish attack on Cyprus in 1974. We had all imported equipment mostly from USA and guess what, the minute we tried to use them against will of USA we started to see ghost ships and planes around, communications has been disrupted leading us to sink our own ship, navigation systems failed... Lesson learned and we build our own military industry but I think most third world countries still haven't taken that step. Exporting high tech military equipment makes USA more powerful, not less. Also don't forget military exports finance further research, if you stopped exporting them, it would have been easier for other to catch you.

    • you must concede that the United States already has by far the most technologically advanced military in the world, and even without devices like this no other country can seriously challenge the United States in a conventional war


      Superior technology != victory in war.

      Someone may have already mentioned China. The US has ~220 million citizens last I heard. China has billions. Granted, transporting anyone over would be tough, but China could obliterate Asia and Europe in a few decades pretty easily if it had the desire.

      And how about this technology for defense? Technology needs to continue to progress for one to compete in ANY it business or in military. We could back from finding new technology in the military, but surely nobody else would. Complacency has been the end of many civilizations.

      Now for the economic advantage...the government is spending money on a PRODUCT. This money goes into employees hands and they spend it. Then those who they paid for product/service spend it again. This is the beauty of economics. Government spending is GOOD for the economy, regardless of what political alignment you are. This money could be spent on saving trees or welfare...but our the economic benefits are nil.

      Go USA.

      • Umm....

        U.S. ~270 million
        China ~1.13 billion

        How could China obliterate Asia and Europe?

        Europe (excl. Russia) ~380 million
        Rest of Asia ~1.73 billion

        What does population have to do with it?

        What is your last point???

    • by clark625 ( 308380 ) <> on Saturday April 06, 2002 @06:49PM (#3296754) Homepage

      you must concede that the United States already has by far the most technologically advanced military in the world, and even without devices like this no other country can seriously challenge the United States in a conventional war

      Maybe no other country can challenge the US. At least, not right now. China, for example, has the goal of improving their tech enough that they may become a more equal competitor. And many other nations have interests in targetting the US for any type of war (conventional or otherwise).

      Why is it that people say "hey--we've got the best in the business (in this case the business of war). Why should we keep developing?" It's like people really, truely believe that we don't have any competition (or people who want to be competitors). Microsoft hasn't given us much in way of innovation since Win95. And some would say that they are the "best in the business" for desktop OS's. But that's no excuse for them to be sitting around waiting for others to finally catch up. Instead, they should be trying to improve even more. That would only give them a larger lead.

      It is a poor rationalization in my opinion to say that we should ever pretend that some amount of military tech is "good enough". There will always be advances. The country who can aquire and use these advances first has an enormous advantage. The US doesn't merely want to have the most powerful military in the world--the intent is to have a military always so advanced and powerful that no other nation would ever question a war. Simply having the technology can prevent war altogether and save many lives.

      In my opinion, I would much rather fund military research than many other projects. People like to say that disease, world hunger, and other interests should come first. My only response is: What would it matter if I had cancer if I am dodging bullets? What good does sending food to poor countries do when the food never reaches those people in need do to gangs?

      I think people misunderstand the role of the military and its necessity for the US. This world isn't a fairy-tale place. Bad people exist, and they intend to hurt us. It is only by military power that this world is as safe as it is now. Simply look to WWII for inspiration--as well as the Cold War and how two superpowers used their militaries to ensure (mostly) peace stayed in place to prevent WWIII. I don't see any problems with sending my tax dollars in for military research. I'm also quite happy to feed starving kids in Afganistan, too. And education. And... etc.

      • the intent is to have a military always so advanced and powerful that no other nation would ever question a war.

        Except that you don't take on goliath by playing by his rules; you fight dirty, and distributed low-tech terrorism is very fuck'n effective against F-##'s, bombers, and ICBM's...

        Exhibit a: box cutters.

        Exhibit b: bomb strapped to chest.

        The Palestinians don't really have a chance against Israel's army of expensive toys in a conventional war, so they hit below the belt (which is 'understandable')... rendering all those (U.S. made) toys mostly worthless.

        Exhibit c: C4 on NYC water main + dirty bomb ... oh wait, this hasn't happened yet.

        My point is that it makes more sense to attack the root of these problems (with food, medicine, education, means of production, fair politics, etc.) rather than building up massive militaries to treat the untreatable symptoms of problems we help cause... and then bitch and moan when terrorists don't play by the rules.

        (I might come off sounding like some anti-american "terrorist sympathizer" in this post, but I'm just saying that a 'fucking scary military machine' means jack against more effective cockroaches.)


        • Technology certainly helped in Afghanistan. There's no longer a friendly government to host the terrorists in that case, and interestingly we're getting cooperation from Pakistan, Yemen, the Philippines, Singapore...

          The Palestine Authority is a special case. For political, religious and diplomatic reasons, arresting Arafat and his friends would have nasty ramificaitons.
    • If the US doesn't build it, someone else will, and that will cost us. If you don't like the way the US goes about fighting disease, [] starvation, [] and poverty, [] look at the way Iraq does it. Or North Korea. Or China.

      Could the US do more? Sure. If someone defeats the US with superior firepower, will they do better? Not a chance. Power acquired though violent means is rarely employed for the good of the majority.

      I would prefer to see the US retain its abililty to defend itself against aggressors. If the US is defeated in war, the victor is not likely to be someone who does a better job fighting the "very serious problems of disease, starvation, and poverty." If that matters to you, you should be glad for the United States' military superiority.

      We have superiority today, but if we stop developing bigger, better, badder weapons, that will change. Superiority is a process, not a result.

    • you must concede that the United States already has by far the most technologically advanced military in the world

      You seem to forget that this technology will be used primarily in situations where one man is trying to kill one other man. The one who loses dies. You apparently expect American pilots to make do with "good enough" since we're already the best. Being from the most technologically advanced military does you no good when an enemy pilot has managed to get behind you.
  • Wow (Score:2, Funny)

    by jidar ( 83795 )
    This time lets not sell the tech to the Israelis so they stop kicking our pilots asses so bad in mock dogfights. This could be like their handicap.
    • The Isralis keep kicking our asses so bad in mock dogfights because they have some of the best trained pilots in the world. Being involved in a nearly perpetual state of warfare for the past 20 years has kind of given them an edge on the training and experience side of things. Its kind of a non-issue anyway, because 99.9% of air engagements are beyond visual range anyway.
    • by Bwah ( 3970 )
      IIRC, The Python 4 [] has been deployed and capable of doing this for some time. The Israelis have had helmet mounted sighting for a long time. High Off-Boresight capable missiles are nothing new.

      The AIM9X [] is late, and it is not state of the art. A true tribute to the royally fscked up air force procurement process. I seem to recall that lockmart and elbit both set some speed records during the python 4 integration on the F-16. It was supposed to have been (rumored anyway) a real model fast track development effort.

      Also, one of the reason the Israelis have done so well in joint exercises is that they CAN take HOBS shots. The US deployment of such a system would just level the playing field a bit rather than give American pilots an advantage.

  • This has been on the Apache for some time now.

    Joe Carnes
    • Have you seen the Apache version? I wouldn't want to be flying at Mach 1 with one of those strapped to my head when pulling 6 Gs, banging around.

      Yeah, the Apache has had it for years. But consider it's used to track slow moving AFVs and other ground targets.
    • This has been on the Apache for some time now.

      I'm afraid its not on my version of Apache, but I believe the new 2.0 version of Apache may have it. :)

  • Little too easy? (Score:2, Interesting)

    by AndyChrist ( 161262 )
    While this would definitely be faster, maybe more accurate...if all you have to do is LOOK at something to blow it up, might not the chances for friendly fire or other accidents be increased? What else does a pilot have to do to mark and/or fire at their target?
    • Re:Little too easy? (Score:2, Informative)

      by jpmkm ( 160526 )
      Read the article -
      "When a target is in the display's bull's-eye, the pilot pushes a button to launch the missile."
      The helmet is just for aiming. You still push a button to launch.
    • All U.S. military aircraft have IFF ("Identification Friend or Foe") systems that automatically query potential targets to see if they're transmitting a "friendly" code. These codes are changed regularly and kept secret to prevent enemies from duping them.

      If a target IFF's friendly, the pilot will be informed of this on his HUD ("Heads Up Display") or by a tone in his headset prior to any weapons firing. Likewise, targets that are not squawking friendly codes will show as elevated threats on the pilot HUD. The system is not perfect, but it is better than nothing, especially since the vast majority of air combat weapons these days are BVR ("Beyond Visual Range").
      • IFF isn't perfect, of course, as we found out in Desert Storm (where about half our combat deaths were from friendly fire -- and having been a medic over there, I have pretty strong feelings about that) and are currently finding out in Afghanistan, where the problem of a very high-tech air force working in coalition with a very low-tech ground force has led to some really tragic fuckups. The best protection against friendly fire deaths is still rigorous training in how to distinguish friend from foe using the Eyeball Mark I.
  • Didn't Discovery Channel do a documentary on wives who reduced their husbands to cinders merely by giving them the evil eye?

  • you take a quick look at your wingman and utter the words "shoot, he's too far away" then you hear... "target locked...firing..."

    technology is beginning to get big enough to cause som really big mishaps...
    • "shoot, he's too far away"

      It would sound dangerous, except "shoot" isn't what these folks say when they're upset. And no military guy would say "shoot" when he means "fire."

      Now if his wingman's plane is damaged and he looks over and says "your engine is on fire," then there could be a problem.

  • Any news on when is the port to Quake going to be finished?
  • Why is the military wasting money on this? In a short time, probably by next fall, the UCAV (unmanned combat air vehicle) program will be completed. While that's only for doing bombing runs right now, it's end goal is to be adapted for fighters as well. By taking the pilot out of the plane, you can pull insane G-forces without worrying about pilots blacking out, leading to much more manueverable airplanes. With pilots on the way out, it doesn't make much sense to build this kind of system.

    Colin Winters
    • Except that no unmanned anything can have enough good camera angles for the operator to have the kind of SA that you need in life. Don't even think that AI can come close to filling that need. Computers help- they're essential, but the most powerful computer is still going to be the human brain.

      The military wastes money on $700 toilet seats, yes. None of the money spent on research or upgrading weapons systems can be called wasted, though.

  • This technology has been around for the Apache (Helicopter you putz) for many years, and was originaly started by the russians on their Mig-29s in the late 80s with a relatively large ammount of success. The original models allowed the firing of heat seaking missiles up to 90 degrees off gunsight, to hear that they are all the way to 180 degrees doesnt shock me, but that really isnt news. Anyway, thats my 2c.
  • Copilot: "Hey, your shoelace is untied!!"

    Pilot: "huh?" (looks at shoes)

  • Could this not be the ULTIMATE mouse. Think about it! Just put a couple extra button on the keyboard and when you want to click on something just look and press a key! Sure the headgear might be a little bulky right now but I'm sure that could be easily fixed. No more lifting your hands from the keyboard to click something and when gaming if you can see it you can click it! A whole new strain of optical mice!
    • Re:Sweet!! (Score:3, Interesting)

      by Xerithane ( 13482 )
      Been done. []

      Even though the website is quite scarce, this is not vapor. I have actually had one of these things strapped to my head and used it to track a mouse cursor. Very cool tech and very light weight.
      • I want one that tracks my *eye* movements, not my head movements. I don't want to point my face at a button, i want to LOOK at a button. But cool anyway ;)
        • This does track your eye movement. It has a quarter sized disc that sits on your forehead and tracks the emg signals going to/from your eyes. It really is quite cool.
  • It's All Been Done (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Phanatic1a ( 413374 ) on Saturday April 06, 2002 @06:39PM (#3296709)
    The AH-64 Apache [] entered service way the hell back in 1984, and the gunner wears a helmet that, combined with an IR laser array in the cockpit, detects which way he's looking and swivels the helicopter's chin turret in the appropriate direction. So that's nothing new. What is new here is the steerable seeker on the missile, which combies with the helmet to allow off-axis engagement.

    'course, that's not really new either, as the MiG-29 has similar capability.
    • As the article itself states, this was also tried in Vietnam. One successful application was the "Evil Eye" integrated helmet gunsight in the (then brand-new) AH-1 Huey Cobra, a forerunner of the same visual acquisition-and-tracking system used today.

  • New Tech, Old Idea (Score:3, Informative)

    by alpinist ( 96637 ) on Saturday April 06, 2002 @06:39PM (#3296713)
    This seems very similar to the targeting in Apache helicopters, except it tracks the movement of the gunner's head not his eye. And I even think it goes back as far as the Cobra helicopter. Pupil tracking has been discussed for a long time, as well as helmets with built in displays, similar to a Head Up Display (HUD) for projecting situational information in a way humans can keep up with and understand.

    As far as dog fighting goes, what about the F-22? Its systems are designed for engaging aircraft at long range, well out of sight of the pilot. That's been the direction they've been pushing aircraft, so a single pair of fighters can control a large chunk of sky, stealthy and deadly at long ranges, neutralizing enemy aircraft long before they're ever detected themselves.
  • Great, one less sanity check in the loop between "Is he with us or them?" and "Kaboom!"

    As if enough friendly troops aren't blown up by their american "allies" already.
  • Just don't give this Tech to my wife!!! Actually I think she already has it and just manages to have a small level of self restraint.

  • Hey! (Score:5, Funny)

    by Click 0 Nett ( 525613 ) on Saturday April 06, 2002 @06:42PM (#3296726)
    I can see my house from up here!

    uh oh...... :)
  • Just as flares and chaff are used to divert missiles, I'll bet new flares will be developed that make it difficult to keep focus, or temporarily blind the pilot. Who knows... maybe they can develop a laser that targets cockpits.

    Another question I'd like to see answered: how accurate is human eyesight anyway? Sure, to us it seems pretty accurate, but how accurately can you pick up on the eye's positioning? What if you've got a gimp-eye that keeps straying off to the corner? What about picking up on depth-of-field? With ground targets this shouldn't be as much of a problem, but in the air, especially with an air target between you and the ground, depth-of-field becomes critical. It seems like the biggest "bugs" in this system are the foibles of the human eye.

    • I believe this is helmet tracking, not eye tracking (similar to the Apache system).

      Point your head at the target, get it in the helmet visor-mounted HUD, lock, and fire.
  • No problem with this, as far as the missile launch being done by a trigger, not by thoughts.

    Imagine a stupid lietunent (just like Band of Brothers) starring at the pilot in front of a plane equiped with this device. It would be interesting to see stupid sargents being killed!

    But, what can I do? What can I say? I'm not military. :o)

  • I recall reading recently that research was being done on a helmet like this that would be combined with external sensors so the pilot could "see" things that were not visible to him in the cockpit. For instance, he could look down by his feet and see an aircraft below him. They could couple this with a quick method of changing "views," like those flight simulator games that allow you to toggle between forward/left/right/aft view, to make a formidable fighting system.

    By the way, for the whiners complaining that this will facilitate blue-on-blue kills: it's just a targeting system. The pilot still has to aim and pull the trigger.
  • As many others have noted, this stuff has been around for quite some time. Operationally, it was first fielded in the Cobra gunship during the 1970s.

    As the US Army [] puts it:

    The modern HMD is not a new concept. Its invention has been attributed to Gordon Nash, a British researcher, who explored alternative methods of providing additional information to the aviator in the 1950's (Adam, 1995). Marshall (1989) traces the concept of using the helmet as a platform for a fire control (weapon aiming) back to 1916, when Albert Bacon Pratt developed and received patents for an integrated gun helmet, perhaps the very first helmet-mounted sight (HMS). This concept was revisited in the Helmet Sight System (HSS) used in the U.S. Army's AH-1 Cobra attack helicopter in the 1970's. Task and Kocian (1995) cite the U.S. Navy's Visual Target Acquisition System (VTAS), developed in the 1960's, as the first fully operational visually coupled sighting system. [However, the system was abandoned due to lack of sufficient missile fire control technology.] For Army aviation, the AN/PVS-5 NVG was the first pilotage imagery HMD (first tested in 1973), and the IHADSS was the first integrated HMD (fielded since 1985).

    Simply, an HMD projects head-directed sensor imagery and/or fire control symbology onto the eye, usually superimposed over a see-through view of the outside world.

  • Two wee flies in the ointment here. First off, it is not useful to be able to target your weapons on an unidentified foe, especially if they turn out not to be foe.

    Second, while all this close-range dogfight stuff is all very well, most modern AAM-type weapons are designed to be fired with a stand-off distance that renders the target virtually invisible to the naked eye. So you might have trouble aiming by looking at it.

    Vik :v)
    • The idea isn't for targetting objects that are within line-of-sight, but to allow pilots to select tracks via eye movement. A track can be something that is within line of sight or something quite far away.

      Think about it, what is the most effective way to select an item to attack when there is like 50 things on your screen to possibly attack? By the way, your hands are kind of being used to fly a plane at the time ;-)

      Great technology but not new... Already being used in the Apache Longbows [] for machine gun aiming.
  • by appletalking ( 154181 ) on Saturday April 06, 2002 @08:05PM (#3297005)
    Raytheon makes the sharp-turning AIM-9X missile.

    Please note that the AIM-9x != AOL Instant Messenger for Windows 95/98. (Although the destructive effects on the lives of those who come into contact with them are striking similar . . .)

    Ah well, it sounded better in my head. Honestly.
  • If frowning is used as trigger, then Grampa Simpson's phrase "to give somebody the frowning of their life" will get a new meaning.
  • Pretty soon it will be shoulder launched nukes which you can aim just by looking.

  • The AIM-9X / look-n-shoot is a direct response to the Cold War developments by the Soviets that was above and beyond any technology we had. The system used in the MIG-29 and SU-27, comprised of slaving the targeting computer to the helmet display and using FLIR as well, similar to the Apaches'. But the neat thing about the Soviet's system is that it was completely passive, with use of a variety of missles IR or radar: AA-10b/d "Alamo" [] or AA-11 "Archer" []. Also, the field of view of the IR seekers and the maneuverability of their missles had much wider envelopes than ours (US). The AA-11 uses thrust-vectoring to maneuver in such a way as to be able to pull over 12 Gs and has a range of 40 km, compared to our AIM-9M [] max range of about 15-20 km and maneuverability of about 9-10 Gs.

    (link to Soviet missles [])
  • People seem to be trying to develop more and more ways to kill each other, and these methods are getting faster, easier, and more brutal all the time. Rather than a helmet that will shoot a missile at something just by looking, wouldn't money be better spent developing a helmet that, when pointed at someone, encouraged peace? If more time and money were spent on diplomacy, and less on new ways to kill people, peace would be easier to come by in the world.
  • While this is the first I've heard of such a system being used on a airplane, helicopter gunships have had look-aim systems in use for several years now. Take a look at later versions of the Apache and Super Cobra.
  • Somebody commented to me that there was a system in development that would actually read the movement of the pilot's eyeballs to determine more precisely where he was looking -- anybody know anything about this?

With all the fancy scientists in the world, why can't they just once build a nuclear balm?