Electronic Weapons: Australia's All-Seeing Helmet


August 27, 2009: Australia is equipping its 22 Tiger Armed Reconnaissance Helicopters (ARH) with the advanced Top Owl helmet mounted display. It joins some 700 systems in use worldwide. The helmet has been updated to have night vision imagery displayed on the wide field of view (40 degree) goggle shaped visor covering the entire upper face region of the wearer. In this way, imagery superimposes with flight control symbols, yet still permits viewing the outside environment. Not so, when standard Night Vision Goggles (NVG’s) are used. And pilots must wear counterweights on the back of their helmets that offset the weight and contributes to neck strain. On Top Owl, counterweights are eliminated and image intensifiers are mounted on either side.

Produced by Thale’s Avionique, based in France, Top Owl is the most advanced helicopter helmet mounted system available. Fifteen  nations including the U.S., utilize it. Top Owl weighs  4.85 lbs (2.2 Kg), while using a single cable to connect to the aircrafts systems. There also the capability of display FLIR (Forward Looking Infra-Red) images onto the visor, and image intensifiers (selectable with cockpit or Hands off Collective and Stick, or HOCAS,  switch.

Comparable helmets include the U.S. Integrated Helmet And Display Sight System (IHAADSS) used in the Apache attack helicopter and Israel’s Elbit JedEyes . Elbit’s offering appears the most comparable to Top Owl. Both are similar in appearance with near identical capabilities and like the IHAADS both can be slaved to the flexible chin mounted cannon on the Apache and Tiger

Australia’s chose the Eurocopter Tiger to replace its Bell OH-58 Kiowa and UH-1 Iroquois ‘Bushranger’ gunship. The difference with Australia’s Tigers is uprated engines, a laser sight for firing the U.S. Hellfire 2 missile and usability of 70 mm rockets from a Belgian developer. These along with Top Owl, Australia will possess one of the most formidable fighting platforms in the World. -- Mike Perry


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