The US Air Force has selected LIFT Airborne Technologies to continue with prototype development of a new helmet for its fixed-wing aircrew.

The helmet prototype was chosen after Air Combat Command (ACC) initiated the search for a next-generation helmet to address issues with long-term neck and back injuries and optimise aircraft technology.

1980s design

“The current helmet was based on 1980s design. Since then, gains in aircraft technology and the demographic of pilots have changed,” said Scott Cota, ACC Plans and Requirements branch aircrew flight equipment program analyst.

“The legacy helmet was not originally designed to support advances in aircraft helmet-mounted display systems, causing pilots to fly with equipment not optimised for them, especially our female aircrew.”

Discomfort for operators

The implementation of helmet-mounted devices has added weight and changed the centre of gravity, leading to discomfort for operators. In addition, a 2020 Air Force anthropometric study identified the need to add a size small helmet that better optimises the fit for female crew members, Cota said.

The helmet requirement was one of the first initiatives to go through AFWERX, an Air Force organisation focused on working with nontraditional defence companies to bring technological innovation, in 2019.

Innovative solutions

“To better understand advances in technology, seek innovative solutions to current helmet issues, and use vendor competition to drive the initiative, AFWERX was a natural choice,” Cota said.

The helmet will undergo additional research, testing and improvements prior to the Air Force confirming the prototype design is successful and offering a production contract in 2024. Following production, ACC plans to take a phased approach to deliver the new helmet to all fixed-wing aircrew members across the Air Force, beginning with the F-15E Strike Eagle.

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