Up close and personal with the F-35’s 400K USD flight helmet with a X-ray vision-like imagery

Here are some interesting images of the F-35’s Helmet Mounted Display System.

The Helmet Mounted Display System is one of the most advanced system on the much debated F-35 Lightning II Joint Strike Fighter.

It integrates FLIR (Forward Looking Infra Red) and DAS (Distributed Aperture System) imaging, night vision and a virtual HUD (Head Up Display) that makes the F-35 the first front line combat plane without a “conventional” HUD:  the main flight and weapon aiming information are projected onto a virtual HUD on the visor.

F-35 helmet LM 2

As explained when we saw one for the first time at Farnborough International Airshow in 2012, the helmet system collects all the information coming from the plane’s sensors along and fuses it with imagery fed by a set of six cameras mounted on the jet’s outer surfaces.

In this way, the HMDS provides the pilot with a X-ray vision-like imagery: he can see in all directions, and through any surface, with the HUD symbology he needs to fly the plane and cue weapons, through the line of sight imagery.

F-35 helmet LM 3

No matter where the pilot turns his head, the most relevant data he needs follows his eyes.

Needless to say, as many other F-35’s systems, the HMDS has suffered issues: whilst jitter and latency problems have been solved, there is still concern with turbulence and buffeting, that can cause display issues (particularly dangerous when the JSF is maneuvering to evade an enemy missile shot), decreased night-vision acuity, and information sharing when 3 or 4 aircraft fly together.

F-35 helmet LM 4

Image credit: Lockheed Martin


About David Cenciotti
David Cenciotti is a journalist based in Rome, Italy. He is the Founder and Editor of “The Aviationist”, one of the world’s most famous and read military aviation blogs. Since 1996, he has written for major worldwide magazines, including Air Forces Monthly, Combat Aircraft, and many others, covering aviation, defense, war, industry, intelligence, crime and cyberwar. He has reported from the U.S., Europe, Australia and Syria, and flown several combat planes with different air forces. He is a former 2nd Lt. of the Italian Air Force, a private pilot and a graduate in Computer Engineering. He has written five books and contributed to many more ones.


  1. This helmet costs $400,000? You can buy a very nice plane for that kind of money.

    Sigh, don’t the propellor heads at the Pentagon understand that several special-purpose planes not only cost less than one dubious superplane like the F-35, but will run circles around it in the tasks for which they are designed.

  2. Can this technology be retro fitted to the likes of tornados, falcons, eagles and the likes? If this system gives our guys the edge surely should be fitted to all NATO war planes as standard? From what I gather it works like facial recognition does in my digital camera but for targets the pipper now being whatever your eye is looking at. .

  3. In other words, the town is not better than the current technology, although promising, is useless except enriching companies that produces it.

  4. Expensive.

    It just seems to me that they have over complicated the whole thing and for no particular reason when all the information they needed could have been put on a screen in front of them.

    Yes it’s cool that they can look through the floor or acquire a target by looking at it but it isn’t really necessary, after all, even if they are particularly flexible they will still struggle to look behind themselves.
    It just seem like an added expense and something else to break.

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