This year, 35 test pilots will start flying with the top-of-the-line, 3rd-generation of Helmet Mounted Display System (HMDS).
This helmet is a modified version of the previous generation display system. The Pentagon had identified the latter as an F-35 program risk. Subsequently, the fighter program developed the fixes and the new Gen-3 helmet assured the F-35 Joint Program Office of the Pentagon to discontinue funding another program that was also developing a helmet mounted display. In the year 2011, the DoD had identified the Helmet Mounted Display System as one of numerous F-35 program risks.
A Joint Venture Effort
It discovered that the Gen-2 system that was being developed via the joint venture between Elbit Systems of America and Rockwell Collins was actually deficient in the areas of display jitter during aircraft -buffeting, night-vision acuity as well as image latency from a fighter’s electro-optical-distributed aperture system. At that point of time, this product was dubbed the Vision Systems International. In 2011 Sept, Lockheed Martin, the prime contractor for the F-35 awarded BAE Systems the contract via which they would develop a new HMDS which would have detachable night-vision goggles (NVGs) in case Vision Systems International failed to resolve the issues with the existing helmet-mounted display.
The Right Fix
In 2013, after having tested the display system fixes over a period of 2 years, the Joint Program Office eventually garnered sufficient amount of confidence in the latest Gen-3 Helmet Mounted Display System to discontinue the parallel display effort that was being carried out by BAE. The Gen 2 HMDS’ night-vision acuity contains Intevac silicon imaging engine and 10-sensor for low light-level detection. It was discovered that this was the major deficiency in the helmet. Now, the helmet has an ISIE 11-sensor that is based on the patented electron-bombarded activated pixel sensor technology that is patented by Intevac Photonics. It now takes the night-vision acuity of the system closer to the 20:20 vision that night-vision goggles should be capable of providing.