The F-35 has become notorious for its stratospheric price tag, along with the plane’s host of mechanical and software problems.
The cost of the US’s fifth-generation fighter has already risen to approximately $US400 billion with a projected lifetime operating cost of $US1.5 trillion. The Marines are still set on launching the F-35 in the near term despite its incomplete software package.
These problems apply to the F-35’s helmet as well. Each F-35 helmet costs over $US400,000, the Washington Post reports. And like the F-35, the helmet has had its own run of development setbacks and cost overruns.
Each visor is designed to function as a heads-up display that will work in conjunction with six high resolution cameras embedded in the skin across the F-35. Ideally, during flight the pilot would be able to see through the walls of the jet as images from the cameras are displayed in real time across the visor surface.
“When the helmet’s tuned correctly to the pilot’s eyes, you almost step into this other world where all this information comes in. You can look through the jet’s eyeballs to see the world as the jet sees the world,” Al Norman, an F-35 test pilot, told The Washington Post.
This enhanced situational awareness would allow the pilot to see enemy aircraft and targets on the ground that the sides of the cockpit might otherwise obscure. The visor also displays critical information about speed and altitude.
But the helmet, like the rest of the F-35, ran into operational problems.
According to testing from the Department of Defence, turbulence and buffeting of the aircraft could cause significant display issues within the helmet.
The report stated that during basic offensive and defensive maneuvers the conditions negatively effected the display, a problem that could have “the greatest impact in scenarios where a pilot was manoeuvring to defeat a missile shot.”
In addition, the Post noted that the helmets suffered from night-vision and streaming issues that caused motion sickness among pilots. Fortunately these problems have largely been resolved, although the green glow associated with the night vision is still a persistent issue.