Orion Westfall, a computer scientist with the 412th Electronic Warfare Group, built the software and systems to perform the tests.
“Captain Jenkins brought down a set of requirements in a manual form, showing all the symbology on paper,” he said. “I had to program that up, make it move with the pilot and with the airplane, then build the control panel.”
The system Westfall built to run the helmet-mounted display has three computers, one to run the control panel and one for each of the pilot’s eyes.
“You’re using both eyes, so it’s stereo vision,” he said. “When you put the helmet on you can actually change the depth of the symbology display.”
Westfall said this was a requirement, because everyone’s eyes are different.
“When the pilot gets in and puts the helmet on, if the symbology isn’t right for his eyes, he has to be able to adjust that forward or back.”
Interpupillary spacing, or the distance between the eyes, also had to be considered.
“That was quite a challenge,” Westfall said. “I’m pretty proud of what we’ve accomplished here. The helmet-mounted display is a pretty unique piece of equipment.”
Jenkins said the integration of the helmet-mounted display into the Joint Strike Fighter will give pilots an extra edge in combat.
“It really increases the pilot’s situational awareness and gives him greater flexibility for being able to acquire targets of interest,” he said. “From a tactics point of view, that gives the pilot an advantage to now look over his shoulder, find a target of interest, slew a missile to that target and shoot without ever having to turn the aircraft, which is a very limited capability in a conventional fighter.”
U.S. Air Force Lt. Col. Ed Cassidy, Joint Strike Fighter ITF commander said the technology that Jenkins, Westfall and others at Edwards’ simulator facility are testing is critical to providing future fighter pilots with better situational awareness.
“This is a risk-reduction test. We are taking an early look at this symbology to ensure we are heading in the right direction,” Cassidy said. “Early testing of the capability to display all this information just inches from the pilots’ eyes will pave the way for testing the actual helmet in the actual airplane.”