August 19, 2012: A new version of the American JHMCS (Joint Helmet Mounted Cueing System) has been introduced. The JHMCS II allows the user to fire at weapons wherever their eyes are pointed, no matter what direction the helmet is pointed. This new version uses better hardware and software to track the movement of the pilot's eyes. The new JHMCS is better balanced and much more comfortable to wear and use. The new version is more reliable and cheaper as well. Still, a JHMCS II costs about a million dollars. It's an expensive way to cover your head. The cost of JHMCS includes additional equipment to be installed in the cockpit, training, and technical support.
The JHMCS also allows a pilot to see critical flight and navigation information displayed on his visor. Sort of like a see-through computer monitor or Head Up Display. Most importantly, the pilot can turn their head towards a target, get an enemy aircraft into the crosshairs displayed on the visor, and fire a missile that will promptly go after the target the pilot was looking at. There is an additional advantage in letting the pilot look around more often without having to look down at cockpit displays or straight ahead at a HUD (Head Up Display). This kind of freedom gives an experienced pilot an extra edge in finding enemy aircraft or targets and maneuvering to get into a better position for attacks. JHMCS is also useful for air to ground attacks.
Systems like JHMCS have been around for over a decade but JHMCS is lighter and easier to wear (weight was a major problem in the past), easier to use, and more reliable (if you don't bump into the canopy). The Israelis firm Elbit took the lead in developing this technology and made many technical breakthroughs with their earlier DASH (Display and Sight Helmet) system. Elbit teamed up with American firms to develop and market JHMCS, which is largely an improved DASH system.
One aspect of the JHMCS that is still a problem is the weight of the helmet. That's why the better balance of JHMCS II is important. Even so, five years ago the U.S. Air Force introduced a new neck muscle exercise machine in air force gyms frequented by fighter pilots. This was because the new helmets weighed 2 kg (4.3 pounds), which was about fifty percent more than a plain old helmet. That extra weight may not seem like much but when making a tight turn, the gravitational pull (or "Gs") makes the helmet feel like it weighs 17.3 kg (38 pounds). You need strong neck muscles to deal with that. For decades now fighter pilots have had to spend a lot of time building upper body strength in the gym, in order to be able to handle the G forces. Otherwise, pilots can get groggy or even pass out in flight, as well as land with strained muscles.