This is the $400,000 helmet used by F-35 fighter pilots

Collins Elbit Vision SystemsCEVS, announced at the end of last month the delivery to the United States Army of the Gen III HDMS number 3,000. HDMS, acronym in English for Helmet Mounted Display System or Helmet Integrated Display System, is the surprising helmet used by pilots of the F-35 Lightning II. Both for its capabilities and its price: $400,000 each.

The helmet that the company formed by Rockwell Collins and Elbit Systems of America presented as the most advanced in the world, it has been used since 2016 and among its peculiarities is that it replaces the cabin's HUD. In fact, the F-35 Lightning II is the first fighter designed to be flown with HMDS and that it does not have a physical Heads Up Display. This is a transparent screen that shows information to the pilot and is usually in front of him, on the dashboard.

This is the $400,000 helmet worn by F-35 fighter pilots.Collins Aerospace.

One of the differences between a traditional pilot helmet and the Gen III HDMS is that All flight and mission data is presented to the pilot on a helmet-mounted display.

Additionally, the helmet is connected six infrared cameras located around the aircraft, which provides a 360 degree view and complete situational awareness. If the pilot looks around in certain conditions, he does not see the cockpit, not even his legs. All you see is your environment, such as terrain, with critical flight and mission data projected inside the helmet.

This is achieved thanks to the DAS image overlay, acronym in English for Distributed Opening System. This system captures images in different directions and then merges them to create a 360-degree composite image around the aircraft. displayed depending on where the pilot is looking. To do this, the helmet uses an eye tracking system that also allows the pilot aim at a target with your weapons just by looking at it.

Pilot with the Gen III HDMS.
Pilot with the Gen III HDMS.Collins Aerospace.

The hull is constructed of carbon fiber and reinforced with Kevlar. It weighs 2.27 kilograms and is customized for each pilot. This process includes a 3D scan of your head and optical measurements of your eyes to ensure accurate distance to your pupils and alignment to your spine to prevent neck injuries during high G-force maneuvers. The connection to the fighter is also unique for each pilot and is done through interface cables of different lengths to adapt to the characteristics of their torso and their range of motion.

A pilot wearing the Gen III HDMS helmet in an F-35.
A pilot wearing the Gen III HDMS helmet in an F-35.Collins Aerospace.

'HMDS offers pilots in combat zones a unparalleled situational awareness, providing them with the vital information they need to make faster decisions. “Our team in Wilsonville, Oregon, is proud to have contributed to the leadership in developing and manufacturing this technology for our warfighters, which will help them win the fight of the future,” he said. Daniel Carlco-CEO of CEVS, in a statement.

The development of the HDMS started at the beginning of this century and went through two generations that presented different problems that were resolved iteration after iteration. One of the main changes with respect to the previous ones was the step from an LCD screen to OLED to improve clarity in night images. Since then, they have been very well accepted by pilots, with the only criticism being the They provide narrow field of view, 30 by 40 degrees wide.