A Lockheed Martin executive reported “lots of progress” in fixing problems associated with the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter helmet-mounted display system (HMDS). But the company continues developing an alternate helmet display in case the existing system fails to meet requirements. Critical design reviews of both systems are planned in the fourth quarter.
In a briefing in mid-June, Steve O’Bryan, Lockheed Martin vice president for F-35 program integration and business development, described progress with three fixes aimed at mitigating night-vision, latency and jitter problems with the Gen II HMDS supplied by Vision Systems International (VSI), a joint venture of Elbit Systems of America and Rockwell Collins. Those problems identified by pilots led Lockheed Martin to award a contract to BAE Systems last September to develop an alternate HMDS with detachable night-vision goggles.
To improve night-vision acuity, an upgraded ISIE 11 electron-bombarded active pixel sensor from Intevac, of Santa Clara, Calif., will be mounted on the helmet and in the nose of the aircraft. The higher-resolution sensor will be tested this summer at MIT Lincoln Laboratory, O’Bryan said. Latency in acquiring imagery from the F-35’s distributed aperture system, quantified in milliseconds and described as “excessive” in a 2011 review by the Department of Defense (DoD), can be improved with “software tweaks,” according to O’Bryan. “We believe latency is very much on track,” he said. The issue of helmet display jitter, which the DoD said makes flight symbology difficult to read and is “tactically significant” for engaging weapons, will be addressed by incorporating micro inertial measurement units (IMUs) to stabilize the image. IMUs have been installed in the laboratory and will be tested in flight this summer, O’Bryan said.
At the same time, Lockheed Martin will continue to pursue the alternate HMDS from BAE Systems, which has not yet flown on the F-35. “Until we are sure that we can meet the needs of the warfighter, we’re going to have a ‘dual-path development’ with the alternate display,” O’Bryan said.
VSI said that it would be conducting live demonstration of the HMDS in public for the first time at next week’s Farnborough International Airshow.