A series of flight tests held in France this past summer has successfully shown that the Thales TopOwl helmet-mounted display system originally designed for helicopter pilots works just as well for those flying military transport aircraft. The tests made use of the TopOwl-H head up display (HUD) system now in full-scale production. Thales has made more than 400 to date.
Selected by some 15 nations including South Africa, Australia, New Zealand, France, Italy, Greece, Spain, Portugal, Germany, Finland, Norway, the U.S., Belgium, Oman and The Netherlands, Thales anticipates that it will deliver more than 1,500 TopOwls over the next ten years.
However, following the trial carried out at a French air force base to evaluate the night vision function of TopOwl on C-160 Transall aircraft, a new market may be emerging. The air force and French Test Center aircrews carried out flight tests under operational conditions at night, validating use of the TopOwl system for all the tasks performed by pilots of tactical transport aircraft. One objective is to gain qualification for the system on the new Airbus Military A400M for night missions.
Given the need for transport aircraft in Iraq and Afghanistan to fly low and at night to avoid shoulder-launched missiles, TopOwl and other HUDs have become vital passive defense equipment.