The Pentagon has announced that it will halt work on a second pilot helmet being developed for the F-35 fighter jet by Britain's BAE Systems Plc , and focus exclusively on the main helmet built by Rockwell Collins Inc and Elbit Systems Ltd. (Nasdaq: ESLT; TASE: ESLT).
In an announcement, the Pentagon's F-35 program office said that the move followed improvements to the Rockwell-Elbit helmet, including a better night vision camera, and would save about $45 million in funding that would have been needed to finish the BAE helmet.
Lockheed said the move amounted to a vote of confidence in the main helmet and efforts to resolve earlier problems. "To date, more than 100 F-35 pilots have flown more than 6,000 flights and 10,000 hours with the helmet, and their feedback has been very positive," said Lorraine Martin, Lockheed executive vice president and F-35 general manager.
Lockheed Martin Corp is building three variants of the new single-seat, single-engine fighter plane for the US military and eight countries that helped fund its development.
In its statement, the F-35 program office said the new "Gen 3" version of the helmet developed by the Rockwell-Elbit joint venture since then would cost 12% less than previously estimated. The new helmet will be introduced to the F-35 fleet in 2016 as part of the seventh batch of jets to be built under low-rate production, it said.
“This decision validates the significant achievement by the Rockwell Collins Elbit Systems of America Vision Systems team in delivering next generation technology that provides unprecedented situational awareness capabilities in support of the F-35 program,” said Kelly Ortberg, Chief Executive Officer and President, Rockwell Collins.
"We appreciate the confidence and support of the F-35 Joint Program Office and Lockheed Martin leading to this decision,” said Bezhalel (Butzi) Machlis, President and CEO of Elbit Systems. “The F-35 HMDS leverages tremendous innovation, technology base and experience gained by Elbit Systems and Rockwell Collins through nearly two decades of collaborating in development, production and fielding of thousands of advanced helmets for fighter aircraft. Elbit Systems is committed to the success of the F-35 program, providing the warfighter with an effective and affordable 5th generation fighter helmet mounted display solution."
The Gen 3 helmet will include an improved night vision camera, new liquid-crystal displays, automated alignment and software improvements. The Gen 3 helmet to be introduced to the fleet in low rate initial production Lot 7 in 2016 will meet program requirements to complete test and development in 2017. Rockwell Collins ESA Vision Systems LLC also developed the Gen 2 helmet that F-35 pilots currently use, which will meet the needs for the US Marine Corps to declare Initial Operational Capability in July 2015.
The F-35 HMDS provides pilots with unprecedented situational awareness. All the information that pilots need to complete their missions through all weather, day or night is projected on the helmet’s visor. Additionally, the F-35’s Distributed Aperture System (DAS) streams real-time imagery from six infrared cameras mounted around the aircraft to the helmet, allowing pilots to “look through” the airframe.
Published by Globes [online], Israel business news - www.globes-online.com - on October 13, 2013
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