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. At 400K a pop, I’m guessing this is the end of pilots getting to keep their flight gear?

  2. Since the 3 and 4 plane issue is with the computer software in the Jet and not the helmet the only issues with the helmet is with night vision acuity and buffeting. Other than buffet and night vision the helmet is functioning as wanted is what I am hearing. Good job! I am sure they will fix those two remaining issues.

  3. But helmets of the type and associeted systems can be installed in any aircraft, so I do not think this thing will be a good reason to choose f-35

    • They’ve fired the gun on video, both on the ground and in the air… and how is needing to use the helmet a disadvantage? You’re already going to be using the helmet for everything else, and modern fighters guide their guns with their radars similarly to land-based anti-air-artillery. Only real difference is that the guns on fighter jets aren’t turrets, so it acts more like a guide than a targeting system.

  4. You can’t fly long-lasting missions with that thing stuck to your eyes, although that will be bad enough as a strain, because the plane guzzles gas like you wouldn’t believe and isn’t going to last long enough to have the pilot stuck in that seat for too long.

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