Electronic Weapons: Pilots Demand Retina Displays

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August 28, 2012: U.S. Air Force F-15 pilots are angry about the decision to implement a number of upgrades to the electronics of F-15s but not upgrade the flat screen displays in the cockpit. At the same time, larger, and higher resolution, displays are being installed in some F-15s for export customers.

The American pilots point out that the upgraded radars and other sensors provide F-15 pilots with a lot more information, more data than the current 4x4 inch (10x10cm) displays can handle. Most pilots are also familiar with the Retina (2880x1800 pixels for cockpit use) display Apple introduced two years ago for its iPhone and other devices. The Retina display puts 50-100 percent more data out there than previous display types. The pilots know higher resolution is very useful. So the pilots are agitating now, while there's still time to fix this oversight.

The military procurement bureaucracy, especially in peacetime, often creates problems like this. It's a combination of office politics, cluelessness, and just plain ignorance that make it all happen or, rather, not happen. But in this case most of the users are university trained engineers and very much aware of any shortcomings in their current or upcoming gear. The pilots, as a group, are also quite articulate. They know how to let the media and politicians know about things that need to be fixed.

The pilots also know that their F-15s will be around for a while yet. The new F-35 is mainly to replace a lot of aging F-16s. The F-22 was meant to replace the F-15 but proved too expensive for that. So the current F-15s will serve for another 10-20 years, until the combat UAVs become common enough to serve as affordable replacements.

 


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