In conventional combat aircraft, the target generally needs to be in both the pilot’s field of vision and within the sights of the plane itself. That is, the plane needed to be pointed in the general direction of whatever you’re shooting at. But in the case of the new Eurofighter Typhoon, pilots can squeeze off a few Sidewinders at bogies incoming from any direction thanks to a super helmet that links their eyes to the plane’s electronic brain.
All those bumps on the back of the helmet are IR LED tracking lights. A three-sensor system above the pilot’s head follows the orientation of the LEDs, understanding it as the angle and direction the pilot is looking. Both the plane’s exterior sensors and weapon systems follow the pilot’s gaze in real-time, allowing him to spot, track, lock onto and fire upon incoming fighter craft and missiles using just his eyes and a few voice commands.
What’s more, information gathered by the plane’s external sensors along with vital performance data — speed, heading, altitude — can be projected directly onto the pilot’s visor. This appears as a 40-degree, fully overlapped, binocular display. Additional pertinent information from local command can also be piped in.
And then there’s the X-ray vision. It’s not as good as Superman’s but it’s still better than any other targeting system available today.
1. The Typhoon’s nose-mounted radar detects an enemy aircraft hidden from the pilots view by his fuselage.
2. The system alerts the pilot and projects an image of the enemy onto his visor as he tilts his head down to see it. This is accomplished using the head-tracking LEDs.
3. The pilot can then issue a voice command to engage the automated weapons system tracking.
4. And if another bogie appears over his shoulder while he’s closing in on the first target, the pilot simply has to look at the second enemy and issue the voice-command to track it. He can even prioritise between the targets before giving them both barrels.
“This is a major advance in terms of combat capability and is something that gives Typhoon pilots a significant advantage when it comes to air combat,” said Mark Bowman,Chief Test Pilot in a press statement.
The Eurofighter Typhoon is a twin-engine, canard-delta wing fighter jet developed by Germany, the UK, Italy and Spain over the past three decades and has been in service since 2003. The latest iteration of the plane, the €90 million Tranche 3, which features this new helmet system, is undergoing final testing and will begin rolling out to airfields across Europe (and some parts of the Middle East) later this year. [Defence Talk, Wikipedia, Wikipedia, BAE Systems, BAE Systems]