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Helmet Sight Battle 
by: Tim Ripley

the United Kingdom and Israel are emerging as key contenders to capture the burgeoning world market for fighter aircraft helmet mounted sights or displays. 

With almost every frontline fighter aircraft around the world likely to be equipped with this "dogfight winning" technology over the next decade, the market potential is enormous. Next generation combat aircraft, such as the Joint Strike Fighter (JSF) may not even have conventional head-up displays but rely totally on helmet mounted displays.

Helmet mounted displays allow fighter pilots to view critical flight and combat data projected onto the inside of their visors, so they do not have to look down at their cockpit instruments to lock on sensors or weapons to targets. This increases situational awareness and gives pilots a critical advantage in dogfights. Israeli manufacturer Elbit, claims the sights, when used in conjunction with ultra-modern fourth generation air to air missiles, give a pilot a 90% chance of winning a dogfight, while his rival only has a 10% chance of victory. 

This month Marconi Avionics upped the stakes in the global battle for this key market by re-branding helmet mounted display product range under the title "Striker". 

A key product for Marconi Avionics to the Strike Display Helmet, which is to be used on the Eurofighter combat aircraft. Flight tests are well advanced. This product, which is modular, has the potential for future development, including application to the JSF. It follows on from the Striker Sight which provides RAF and Omani Jaguar pilots with an air-to-air missile pointing and targeting capability.

Marconi Avionics are expecting to be receive a letter of intent from Eurocopter this week to begin production of the Knighthelm Helmet Mounted Display for the Franco German Tiger attack helicopter, with deliveries to begin in 2001. This includes an integrated night vision systems. Marconi Avionics have also been selected to provide a 24 hour capable helmet display for the US Marine Corps AH-1Z upgrade programme. A key market to win will be the UK WAH-64 Attack Helicopter requirement for an upgraded helmet system from 2003 onwards. This will open the possibility of supplying US Army and other Apache customers with current generation sights.

A major battle is likely to develop between Marconi Avionics and the Israelis over the provision of helmet mounted display to world-wide Lockheed Martin F-16 Fighting Falcon users. 

Israel's Elbit teamed with US based Kaiser Aerospace and Electronics, under the banner of Vision Systems International, to win the USAF and Navy Joint Helmet Mounted Cueing System (JHMCS) requirement in 1997. This envisages a common helmet mounted display for US F-16, Boeing F-15 Eagle, Boeing F/A-18 Hornet and Lockheed Martin F-22 Raptor combat aircraft. Production is scheduled to begin in April 2000. 

Elbit's Display and Sight Helmet (DASH) is already in service with the Israeli Air Force, on their F-16 and F-15 aircraft and operation on Northrop F-5 Freedom Fighters and MiG-21 aircraft upgraded by the company for foreign customers. DASH has been used by the Israeli Air Force five years and it gave them a lead over the Russian NSTs-27 helmet mounted target designator used on the Su-27 and MiG-29s fighters, which was then the only other system in frontline use. 

Source: Defence Systems Daily


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