A solution to fix a bug in the $400,000 F-35 helmet that caused a “distracting” green glow when the fighters flew in low light conditions may be incorporated soon.
The US military hopes to overcome the bug, deemed so critical that it prevented some night landings of F-35 jets on aircraft carriers, by using a different type of semiconductor illumination. Jittery lines were also visible to some pilots, Bloomberg reported Sunday.
The helmets are manufactured by Rockwell Collins and Elbit Systems jointly. Now, Lockheed Martin has been contracted to redesign and modify headpieces to fix the fault reportedly considered “Priority One” by the Pentagon’s test office. LM will install new organic light-emitting diodes to replace traditional liquid crystal displays.
“In partnership with the F-35 Joint Program Office and our US Navy customer, we’ve been working to transition the helmet technology from a traditional LCD to an Organic LED system," Program Manager Jim Gigliotti said by email. The company did not provide a figure for the number of helmets requiring modification or the upgrade cost.
OLED Technology will add the advantages of flexible screens, improved picture quality and quicker response times, and are used in flat-panel TVs, smartphones and digital wristwatches. But, the screens have shorter lifespans.
The shells of the F-35 helmets combine Kevlar and carbon fiber, and custom-made to snugly fit the cranial contours of each pilot. Replacements can be made using a database of head measurements kept for each pilot. The helmet display enables a pilot to see video imagery of where they will land simply by looking down during vertical descent. Weapon lock-on can be achieved by looking at targets through the helmets.
The $406 billion F-35 program has been plagued by problems during its two-decade development phase. In 2018, the Government Accountability Office reported 966 outstanding glitches in the program, with over 150 not expected to be resolved before full-rate production.