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Combat information in eye of beholder

LEFT: Brig. Gen. Tom Jones, 56th Fighter Wing commander, is fitted for the new joint helmet mounted cueing system by Senior Airman Willis Austin, 310th Fighter Squadron Aircrew Life Support journeyman.  Each helmet costs approximately $110,000.  Photo by Master Sgt. William Gomez.

LEFT: Brig. Gen. Tom Jones, 56th Fighter Wing commander, is fitted for the new joint helmet mounted cueing system by Senior Airman Willis Austin, 310th Fighter Squadron Aircrew Life Support journeyman. Each helmet costs approximately $110,000. Photo by Master Sgt. William Gomez.

LUKE AIR FORCE BASE, Ariz. -- Imagine being able to use your eyes to track, lock onto and destroy an enemy target. Back in 1916, Sir Albert Bacon Pratt had such an idea and patented an integrated gun helmet for use in combat. Fast forward to today's fighter pilot and the joint helmet mounted cueing system. 

JHMCS is an electro-optical device that serves as an extension of the heads up display in the cockpit. With JHMCS, fighter pilots are capable of tracking targets without the target leaving their eye sight. All pilots at Luke have or will be training in the new technology. 

"This gives them an enhanced first-look, shoot and kill advantage over enemy pilots," said Lucas Arteaga, 308th Aircraft Maintenance Unit avionics specialist. "It's just like playing a video game in the sky."
 
JHMCS is made up of a custom fitted helmet and visor that displays images in front of the right eye, enabling pilots to view targets in real time. 

"The JHMCS combined with the AIM-9X missile and flight controls gives the complete look, lock and load effect," said Capt. Quenten Esser, 308th Fighter Squadron student pilot. 

Pilots no longer need to look straight through the heads-up dispay and maneuver the aircraft to chase down targets in close combat. By turning the head, a pilot can follow the enemy. 

"One of the most interesting aspects of JHMCS is the ability to monitor information without interfering with the pilot's ability to see outside the canopy," said Captain Esser. "Pilots are now able to acquire targets faster and destroy them with less time spent in harm's way." 

Once a pilot enters the cockpit they plug their helmet into the helmet vehicle interface. Upon initializing the avionics systems, the pilot uses the helmet display control panel to turn the system on and adjust the brightness of the display. A seat position sensor helps to determine the proper display position above the pilot's right eye. The magnetic transmitter unit generates a magnetic field necessary for sensing the pilot's head movements. All this information is summed up and processed for display. 

When it comes to troubleshooting and fixing system malfunctions, avionics systems specialists use a fault isolation manual and a maintenance helmet. All of the components of the system are relatively quick and easy to change in the event of a system failure. 

"JHMCS is a 21st century upgrade on a '90s airframe," said Master Sgt. Anthony Smith, 308th AMU lead production superintendent. "This upgrade increases the Air Forces lethality and ensures air dominance." 

The JHMCS is a transformational piece of equipment that will increase firepower, according to Lt. Col. Dave Lujan, 56th Operations Group deputy commander. 

"The new system decreases the pilot's cockpit workload, making things easier for them to concentrate on mission elements. It's the best off bore sight cueing system in the Air Force. The helmet is another tool that will make the Combat Air Forces more lethal and effective in accomplishing  the mission."