So many JHMCS (Joint Helmet Mounted Cueing Systems) have been damaged in
use, that the U.S. Navy and Air Force have had to develop new repair methods to
get the dinged ones back into action quickly. Otherwise, pilots were likely to
have a shortage of the high-tech, and very useful, JHMCS helmets. The improved
repair program also came up with changes in how the helmets are manufactured,
which made them more resistant to damage.
So far, the
U.S. Air Force and Navy have bought several thousand JHMCS systems for F-16s,
F-18s, F-15s and by F-22s. The JHMCS allows a pilot to see, displayed on his
visor, critical flight and navigation information. Sort of like a see-through
computer monitor or Head Up Display. Most importantly, the pilot can turn his
head towards a target, get an enemy aircraft into the crosshairs displayed on
the visor, and fire a missile that will promptly go after 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.
Each JHMCS costs about $60,000. Before the new repair methods (costing about a
thousand dollars per helmet) were developed, many damaged helmets were simply
junked. The most common damage was the display and associated electronics getting
knocked out when the helmet hit the canopy, caused by violent maneuvers during
training, or combat.
economic repair of JHMCS is even more critical for the new U.S. F-35 fighter.
This will be the first fighter in nearly
four decades that will not have a "Head Up Display" (or HUD, which is
a see-though display in front pilot that displays system information). Instead,
the F-35 pilots will use an upgraded version of the JHMCS. The F-35 version
will be more precise, and will display more types of visual information. The
pilot will be able to change what is displayed with verbal commands.
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.
Israel is getting its F-35s at about the same time the U.S. Air Force does (in
about five years), and the Israelis will use a version of their DASH helmet for
their hundred F-35s.