F-15 test pilots now using advanced helmets
By Wayne Crenshaw | The Macon Telegraph | Published: April 18, 2013
ROBINS AIR FORCE BASE, Ga. — F-15 test pilots at Robins are learning to use futuristic helmet technology.
The pilots are being trained in the use of electronic helmets that essentially put the heads-up display inside the helmet, which they say offers many advantages in combat. Information such as speed, heading, altitude and the location of friendly and enemy aircraft is projected onto the helmet visor.
Once the planes undergo maintenance overhaul at Robins, the test pilots ensure the planes are ready to go back into operation. By using the helmets, called the Joint Helmet-Mounted Cueing System, the pilots can now test the system and make sure it is operating properly before the planes are returned to operation.
Lt. Col. Chris Coddington, an F-15 test pilot, has used the technology in combat but was getting some refresher training Wednesday during a test flight for an F-15E Strike Eagle.
“It eliminates the need to point your airplane at something,” Coddington said. “So if I see something on the ground I want to designate as a target, without this I need to maneuver the airplane to point at whatever it is and designate it via the heads up display. But with this, I can fly maintaining formation and designate the target simply by looking at it.”
Lt. Col. Rich Sposato, an Air Force Materiel Command instructor who is at Robins training the pilots to use the helmets, described it as “a computer on your head.”
The technology has been used in F-Cs for about 10 years, he said, and in F-15Es for about two years. The C model is exclusively for air-to-air combat, but the two-seat Strike Eagle also has air-to-ground capability with a weapons officer in the rear seat.
“It improves the combat capability of the C and E model exponentially,” Sposato said.
Right now only the pilot’s seat in the Strike Eagle is equipped for the electronic helmets, but Sposato said the rear seat will also be equipped over the next year.
It generally takes two or three flights for pilots to become comfortable with the system, he said.
For about the past two years, the 567th Electronic Maintenance Squadron at Robins has maintained the electronic units that operate the helmets, which also are used in the F-16 and F/A-18.