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CHIPS Articles: NASA Tests New Helmet Developed at NAVAIR

NASA Tests New Helmet Developed at NAVAIR
By Renee Hatcher - January-March 2003
Engineers from NAVAIR's Crew Systems Research and Engineering Competency Program (AIR-4.6), have developed a new helmet concept that they expect will enhance the stability and reliability of helmet mounted devices, ultimately improving the accuracy of information available to the aircrew on Navy and Marine Corps aircraft.

In July, pilots began wearing the modular, two-part helmet prototype during limited flight testing in an F/A-18 Hornet at NASA's Dryden Flight Research Center in Edwards, Calif. The helmet will be fully flight-qualified by the Navy before it can be transitioned to the warfighter through NAVAIR's Aircrew Systems Program Office (PMA-202). Continually evolving operational requirements for the Navy and Marine Corps call for a variety of helmet-mounted devices. These technologies often pose significant challenges in terms of aircrew systems safety, comfort and acceptability. Dr. James Sheehy is leading NAVAIR's Aircrew Systems Science and Technology Program effort to provide a stable platform to support the expanded range of helmetmounted devices. The two-part helmet concept, originated by the Gentex Corp., was adopted and further developed by the Navy to meet the specific requirements of the warfighter. "It is lightweight, comfortable and stable," Sheehy said. "The helmet is easily adaptable to outer mission modules including the basic tactical outer helmet assembly recently flown in the F/A-18."

Advanced materials, new suspension techniques, and precision fitting enable the two-part helmet to outperform current helmet technology. The inner helmet assembly is "eye-referenced" which means it is individually fit to each pilot to ensure that his or her eye is always in the proper location for the outer modules. The outer helmet is a shell that can be tailor-made to fit various missions and can range from a plain helmet for impact protection to a high resolution helmet mounted display. The ability to split the protection between the inner and outer modules allows the helmet to cross platforms between rotary and fixed wing aircraft.

"Providing the required tactical capability while preserving and advancing aircrew safety and protection is an extremely important objective," Sheehy said. "As the ultimate technology provider to the warfighter, our mission is to enable absolute combat power through technologies that deliver matchless capabilities."

TAGS: ITAM
A pilot at NASA’s Dryden Flight Research Center in Edwards, Calif., prepares for a flight test in an F/A-18 Hornet with the new two-part helmet concept developed by NAVAIR engineers in the Crew Systems Research and Engineering Competency Program. Photo courtesy of NASA.
A pilot at NASA’s Dryden Flight Research Center in Edwards, Calif., prepares for a flight test in an F/A-18 Hornet with the new two-part helmet concept developed by NAVAIR engineers in the Crew Systems Research and Engineering Competency Program. Photo courtesy of NASA.

An F/A-18C Hornet assigned to Strike Force Squadron Two Five (VFA-25)— the “ Fist of the Fleet.” U.S. Navy photo by PHA Philip A. McDaniel.
An F/A-18C Hornet assigned to Strike Force Squadron Two Five (VFA-25)— the “ Fist of the Fleet.” U.S. Navy photo by PHA Philip A. McDaniel.

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