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Joint Helmet Mounted Cueing System (JHMCS)

The Joint Helmet Mounted Cueing System (JHMCS) is a modified HGU-55/P helmet that incorporates a visor-projected Heads-Up Display (HUD) to cue weapons and sensors to the target. This new cueing system improves effectiveness in both Air-to-Air and Air-to-Ground missions. In close combat, a pilot must currently align the aircraft to shoot at a target. JHMCS allows the pilot to simply look at a target to shoot. This system projects visual targeting and aircraft performance information on the back of the helmet's visor, enabling the pilot to monitor this information without interrupting his field of view through the cockpit canopy. The system uses a magnetic transmitter unit fixed to the pilot's seat and a magnetic field probe mounted on the helmet to define helmet pointing positioning. A Helmet Vehicle Interface (HVI) interacts with the aircraft system bus to provide signal generation for the helmet display. This provides significant improvement for close combat targeting and engagement.

The JHMCS system will be employed in the FA-18C/D/E/F, F-15C/D, and F-16 Block 40/50 with a design that is 95 percent common to all three platforms. The Air Force has eliminated funding for JHMCS in the F/A-22. When used in conjunction with an AIM-9X missile, JHMCS allows a pilot to effectively designate and kill targets in a cone more than 80 degrees to either side of the nose of the aircraft, or high-off-boresight.. Boeing delivered 36 low-rate initial production systems as part of the F/A-18E/F Super Hornet aircraft that will be delivered in fiscal year 2002.

JHMCS combines a magnetic head tracker with a display projected onto the pilot's visor, giving the pilot a targeting device that can be used to aim sensors and weapons wherever the pilot is looking. With JHMCS, the pilot can aim the radar, air-to-air missiles, infrared sensors, and air-to-ground weapons merely by pointing his/her head at the target and pressing a switch on the flight controls. Additionally, the pilot can view any desired data (airspeed, altitude, target range, etc.) while "heads-up", eliminating the need to look into the cockpit during visual air combat.

The AIM-9X is an advanced short-range dogfight weapon that can intercept airborne targets located at high off-boresight lines-of-sight relative to the shooter, providing a weapon with a short-range intercept envelope significantly larger than any air-to-air weapon in use today.

The HOBS system (the combination of JHMCS & AIM-9X) results in a weapon that can attack and destroy nearly any airborne enemy seen by the pilot. Additionally, this weapon can be employed without maneuvering the aircraft, minimizing the time spent in the threat environment. The result is greater lethality, survivability, and pilot situational awareness during air combat.

The Air Force night-vision goggle program would provide military aviators with panoramic, wide-view goggles. Unlike conventional devices that restrict the pilot's side-view to a 40-degree angle, the panoramic goggles come with a 100-degree field of view. The panoramic night-vision goggles use four tubes, while regular goggles have two tubes.

The two competitors vying for the panoramic night-vision goggle award are Insight Technology, of Londonberry, N.H., and Vision Systems International, based in San Jose, Calif. ITT would supply the 16-mm tubes to the winning team. The Air Force plans to start buying these goggles in 2003, but their price tag makes it unlikely that they will be available in large quantities in the foreseeable future. The Army is considering buying the panoramic goggles, but it has made no financial commitment yet.

Vision Systems International, a joint venture of Rockwell Collins and Elbit, is the manufacturer of the next-generation air-combat helmet, the Joint Helmet-Mounted Cueing System. The JHMCS is a "look and shoot" helmet that employs the pilot's eyes to aim weapons and enables "over-the-shoulder engagements." It can be reconfigured with day or night sensors. The integration of the night-vision goggles with the JHMCS is a key requirement in the program.

The JHMCS teaming relationship created a new challenge: How to manage and conduct a program with multiple customers at the customer, prime contractor and subcontractor level? In addition to the JHMCS Joint Program Office (staffed by U.S. Air Force and U.S. Navy personnel), there are four customer platform program offices and five customer flight test program offices. At the prime contractor level, both Boeing and Lockheed Martin bring two platform program offices to the table. At the subcontractor level, Vision Systems International has subcontracted Kaiser Electronics and EFW (who subcontracts Elbit System Limited in Haifa, Israel, for design and development activities). This team represents eight states and one foreign country. In order to support a very aggressive development schedule, the team developed an electronic communication medium that would allow for ease of all parties to send, receive and archive correspondence and design documentation, yet maintain control of technical information in support of U.S. federal law and the contractors' associate contractor agreements and non-disclosure agreements.

Initial tests for both the F/A-18C/D and F-15C revealed significant reliability deficiencies. The device that connects the helmet to the aircraft (helmet vehicle interface) was particularly unreliable. An operational assessment of the systems for the F/A-18C/D and F-15C found the JHMCS potentially effective, but potentially not suitable due to numerous breaks in the helmet vehicle interface. Initial F-15C flight tests revealed that the legacy computer was slow in providing necessary data to JHMCS. This slow data input to the helmet, coupled with normal aircraft buffet during air combat maneuvering, made it difficult for the pilot to designate the target.

Since these initial tests, several corrections have been introduced, but have not improved reliability to an acceptable level. Based on MOT&E data collected from June 2001 to June 2002, DOT&E and the commanders of AFOTEC and OPTEVFOR determined that JHMCS was operationally effective, but not operationally suitable. Both the Navy and Air Force recommended delaying full-rate production until deficient areas are fixed and verified. DOT&E delayed its assessment to allow the Services time to fix the deficiencies.

 



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