Tag Archives: HMSS

Up close and personal with the badass Typhoon’s Helmet Mounted Symbology System

Taken at Grosseto airbase during the recent Spotter Day, the following close up pictures show the Eurofighter Typhoon‘s HMSS (Helmet Mounted Symbology System).

Based on data made available by Eurofighter, the Typhoon’s HMSS features lower latency, higher definition, improved symbology and night vision than the most common fighter helmet, namely the American JHMCS (Joint Helmet Mounted Cueing System), that equips all the U.S. armed forces F-16, F-18 and F-15 jets, and became operational towards the end of the ’90s.

The rather “bumpy” HMSS (as well as the JHMCS, the DASH, Striker and so on), provides the essential flight and weapon aiming information through line of sight imagery, making the Typhoon quite lethal in air-to-air engagements.

Noteworthy, U.S. F-22 pilots, that dogfighted with their German colleagues with the Typhoon at the recent Red Flag Alaska, are not currently equipped with a Helmet Mounted Display.

helmet

Information (including aircraft’s airspeed, altitude, weapons status, aiming etc) is projected on the visor, the HEA – Helmet Equipment Assembly – for the Typhoon, enabling the pilot to look out in any direction with all the required data always in his field of vision.

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Image credit: The Aviationist’s Giovanni Maduli

Typhoon’s super sci-fi helmet: a (supposedly) unnecessary extra feature on the F-22

When I first saw this picture (taken by contributor Nicola Ruffino), I immediately thought that the Eurofighter Typhoon’s Helmet Mounted Symbology System (HMSS), is not only quite advanced, if compared to the the American JHMCS (Joint Helmet Mounted Cueing System), but it is also so ugly and bumpy that let the backseater look like a sort of Hellboy (a comic book superhero).

 

Even if they implement the same basic features, compared to the American JHMCS (Joint Helmet Mounted Cueing System) (that was developed earlier and became operational beginning in the late ’90s), the Typhoon’s HMSS features lower latency, higher definition, improved symbology and night vision.

Both the JHMCS and the HMSS provide the essential flight and weapon aiming information through line of sight imagery. Information imagery (including aircraft’s airspeed, altitude, weapons status, aiming etc) are projected on the visor (the HEA – Helmet Equipment Assembly – for the Typhoon) , enabling the pilot to look out in any direction with all the required data always in his field of vision.

Noteworthy, although it is integrated in U.S. F-15C/D, F-16  Block 40 and 50 and F-18C/D/E/F, the F-22 Raptor doesn’t need a JHMCS. There are various reasons why the most advanced (and much troubled) air superiority fighter lacks it and the HOBS (High Off-Boresight) weapons: confidence that capability was not needed since no opponents would get close enough to be engaged with an AIM-9X in a cone more than 80 degrees to either side of the nose of the aircraft; limited head space below the canopy; the use of missiles carried inside ventral bays whose sensor can’t provide aiming to the system until they are ejected. And also various integration problems that brought the Air Force to cancel funding.

Did the F-22 need HOBS? Sure, as it would have improved its lethality even further. Indeed, although simulated 1 F-22 vs 3 JHMCS F-16Cs engagements proved that the Raptor can master even challenging scenarios such an extra feature would have been a useful addition when facing large formations of Gen. 5 fighters like the Chinese J-20.

In fact as I’ve already written on this blog, “quantity” rather than “quality” should worry U.S. fighter planes in the future:

“the real problem for the US with the J-20 is not with the aircraft’s performances, equipment and capabilities (even if the US legacy fighters were designed 20 years earlier than current Chinese or Russian fighters of the same “class”); the problem is that China will probably build thousands of them.”

Left image: U.S. Air Force

By the way, the multi-role F-35 will get a HMDS (Helmet Mounted Display System): all of the plane’s sensors along with a set of cameras mounted on the jet’s outer surfaces feed the system providing the pilot with a X-ray vision-like imagery: he can see in all directions, and through any surface, with all the information needed to fly the plane and to cue weapons projected onto the visor.

Although the JHMCS is quite common all around the world, the Typhoon’s HMSS is obviously more rare. A good opportunity to see this helmet in action in the U.S. could come in the next years, following the German Air Force plan to base 24 Eurofighter Typhoons at Holloman Air Force Base, at the German Air Force Flying Training Center established in 1958. The Typhoons will be used to train German pilots on the type, as done with the Tornados, that the GAF expects to keep in New Mexico until 2019.

Image: Eurofighter

"I'd rather go to war in a Typhoon than in a F-18 (Super) Hornet" an Aussie exchange pilot says

“I’d rather go to war in a Typhoon than in a F-18 Hornet”. This alleged Australian exchange pilot’s statement is one of the most interesting outcomes (and marketing slogans) of BERSAMA LIMA 11 an exercise marking the 40th Anniversary of the Five Powers Defence Agreement (FPDA) the only multilateral defence agreement in South East Asia with an operational element commitment undertaken by five nations (UK, Singapore, Malaysia, New Zealand, and Australia) to consult in the event of an attack on Singapore or Malaysia.

Image source: RAF/Crown Copyright

This year’s edition of the exercise was attended by 18 ships, two submarines, 4000 troops and 68 aircraft: among them four RAF Typhoons (three single seat and one twin seat jets, both belonging to the Tranche 2) from RAF Leuchars that undertook a 4-day 7,000 mile trip to RMAF Butterworth (including stops in Jordan, Oman and Sri Lanka).

According to an email I’ve received today from a Eurofighter pilot, the overall performance of the plane was almost faultless and much better than anybody had anticipated in spite of the limited support and spare parts available:

“There were no significant problems with the aircraft apart from a small radar issue on one aircraft during the exercise. No issues were attributed to the extreme humidity and local environment, a significant improvement on performance during the Singapore campaign.”

During Bersana Lima 11, the British Typhoons, that had their baptism of fire in the air-to-surface role during the Air War in Libya,  faced Malaysian Mig 29s, Australian F-18s (C and F) and Singaporean F16s using for the first time during an operational deployment, their electric hat (HMSS/HEA – Helmet Mounted Simbology System/Helmet Equipment Assembly the Typhoon JHMCS equivalent) and “easily came out on top in all engagements.”

To such an extent that the Aussie pilot made the notable comment (don’t forget the Royal Australian Air Force is an operator of both Legacy and Super Hornets….).

Image by Nicola Ruffino

Shortlisted in the Indian MMRCA (Medium Multi-Role Combat Aircraft) tender for 126 fighter planes for the Indian Air Force with the Dassault Rafale (the recent loser of the Switzerland selection for a fighter plane to replace the ageing F-5Es), with Ex. Bersana Lima 11 the Typhoon has undertaken another operative (and marketing) campaign to prove the aircraft expeditionary capabilities and its superior technology.