Farnborough Air Show

BAE Systems Reveals New Combat Helmet and ‘Lite’ HUDs

 - July 17, 2014, 4:30 AM
From its experience with the F-35 test program, BAE Systems developed this new Striker 2 helmet-mounted display.

BAE Systems launched a new version of the Striker integrated display helmet for combat aircraft pilots here at the Farnborough Airshow this week. Mark Bowman, the company’s chief test pilot, demonstrated how BAE has leveraged its work on an alternative helmet-mounted display (HMD) for the Lockheed Martin F-35 to produce Striker 2. The company was tapped to provide the alternative, using night-vision goggles, after serious development problems with the Elbit Systems/Rockwell Collins HMD that is integral to the F-35 cockpit. The F-35 program office now says that the problems have been overcome.

The current Striker provides a high accuracy, low latency head-tracker system that can slave sensors or weapons. The fully overlapped 40-percent binocular display overlays flight parameters, sensor data, weapon status and night vision. It weighs only 1.9 kg (2.3 kg with night vision) including twin visors and the oxygen mask. The assembly provides positive pressure breathing to overcome potential g-loc (loss of consciousness in high-g maneuvers).

This helmet is currently used by pilots of the Eurofighter Typhoon and the Saab Gripen, but the Striker 2 version will provide a single solution that is also applicable to the piloting of attack helicopters, said Chris Colson, who is business development director for the Electronic Systems business of BAE Systems, based at Rochester in the UK. This site has a long heritage in avionics, and is currently pioneering “active inceptors,” meaning intelligent aircraft control sticks clip-on, see-through displays; and advanced head-up displays (HUDs) that use digital-light engine (DLE) technology.

The Striker consists of a lightweight inner shell and an outer casing that includes 64 light-emitting diodes. These are tracked in real time by three cameras mounted in the cockpit, so that the pilot’s head movements can be integrated with the aircraft’s display and sensor systems. He or she can therefore maintain an “eyes out” view during combat situations, rather than lose situational awareness while consulting the cockpit displays. The pilot can also use the helmet to aim and cue weapons “off boresight,” a significant advantage.

The helmet “is a real force multiplier at the platform level,” said Colson. He noted that recent combat experience has included Typhoon pilots spotting IED placements and providing their co-ordinates to ground forces, thanks to the helmet.

The Electronic Systems business is displaying a DLE-upgraded HUD for the F-16 in the BAE Systems pavilion here (Outdoor Exhibit 11/FIVE). The mod replaces the cathode ray tube (CRT) and high-voltage power supply (HVPS) that drive legacy HUDs and are becoming high-maintenance and obsolescent. “To the pilot, the DLE upgrade does not look any different, because it utilizes the current optics and video camera,” Colson explained.

The company is also showing a “Lite HUD” that uses waveguide technology, which is more compatible with the large displays found in the latest combat aircraft. The F-35 cockpit is one such aircraft, but the fifth-generation stealth fighter has dispensed with a HUD altogether.

Colson said that this was “a brave step” and has not been followed by other new starts, such as the Textron AirLand Scorpion attack jet or the forthcoming indigenous Turkish fighter. Textron has chosen this BAE Systems product for the Scorpion, which can be seen in the static park here.

“In a waveguide display, you don’t have to be square-on to the optics to see the symbology. It’s just like viewing a modern television,” Colson added.