Top Gun’s topper

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“IN THIS style, $ 400,000.” That price tag for a hat sounds like something out of a tea party attended by Alice. It is actually, though, the expected cost of the world’s most high-tech helmet—one to be worn by pilots of the Lockheed Martin Lightning II, also known as the F-35, which has been developed by America and its allies to replace most of their existing strike aircraft. In the context of a plane costing between $ 148m and $ 337m, depending on exactly which model you order, the price of the helmet is, perhaps, trivial. But for that amount you might expect to get something pilots are universally happy with. And they are not.

The helmet is a wonder. Fighter pilots have long been used to a “heads-up” display—an image of cockpit data and targeting information displayed on the windscreen in front of them. The F-35 helmet goes much further. Not only does it display that detail, and much else besides, on the helmet’s visor but it also takes video images from six external cameras mounted around the aircraft and shows that as well. This allows the pilot to “look through” the aircraft at any angle. Want to see what is happening below? Then look down and instead of…Continue reading
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