The U.S. F-35 fighter-bomber will
be the first fighter in a long time to lack a HUD (head-up display). The HUD
will still be present, but as part of the Helmet Mounted Display System (HMDS).
In other words, the HUD information will be displayed on the inside of the
pilots visor, while still enabling the pilot to see through the visor. This
type of helmet visor has been around for
over a decade, but concentrated on allowing the pilot to control weapons by
just looking at targets, and pressing the "fire" button at the right time.
Now, the display technology inside the
helmet has reached the point where it can handle the HUD stuff as well. The weight
of these HMDS systems has come down as well, making it easier to wear them for
long periods of time.
The HUD was a big innovation for fighters, as it
made it possible for the pilot to spend more time with his head up, keeping an
eye on the sky, or an ongoing battle. The military HUD has been around for half
a century, but appears set to disappear as more pilots shift to HMDS.
Over the last few years, the visor displays have
added the display of critical flight and navigation information. This, in
addition to the basic function of enabling the pilot to turn his head, get an
enemy aircraft into the crosshairs displayed on the visor, and fire a missile
that will promptly go after target the pilot was looking at.
These helmet displays allow the pilot look around
more often without having to look down at cockpit displays, or straight ahead
at a HUD (Head Up Display.) This kind of freedom gives an experienced pilot an
extra edge in finding enemy aircraft or targets, and maneuvering to get into a
better position for attacks. It's also useful for air to ground attacks.