Elmendorf pilots try out innovative flight system

Posted: Tuesday, October 07, 2003

ELMENDORF AFB, Alaska - Members of the 12th and 19th fighter squadrons at Elmendorf Air Force base have been learning how to use a revolutionary new helmet-mounted navigation and targeting system.

These new helmets project images of instrument panel gauges and missile target information directly to the inside of the pilot's visor, right in front of the pilot's eyes.

Both the 12th and 19th fighter squadrons from the 3rd Wing at Elmendorf are the first units in the U.S. military with the "joint helmet mounted cueing system."

The fighter groups are also testing a new missile, the AIM-9X Sidewinder, the latest version of the legendary 50-year-old family of infrared-guided air-to-air missiles.

Without much fanfare over the past few years, many of the F-15Cs at Elmendorf have been upgraded with the new navigation and weapons systems. "Without a doubt, you are looking at the most capable air-to-air fighters in the world," said Capt. John "Sumo" Sapp, a 12th Fighter Squadron pilot.

The flight helmets and visors are individually fitted for each pilot. The bright green aiming and flight data symbols are projected onto the reflective inner surface of the visor by a tiny cathode ray display. The images don't block normal vision, so the pilot can see both where he's going and always have his instruments in sight. A tiny camera in the helmet also records everything the pilot looks at during the mission, providing invaluable training and intelligence data.

While the heads-up helmet is being developed by the Air Force, the Navy is perfecting the missile. The AIM-9X features an imaging infrared sensor that sees the target aircraft as an aircraft and not just a blob of heat. Jet vane controls located in the rocket exhaust increase maneuverability.

The Sidewinder can attack from all angles, including head on, and is more lethal and has a longer range than previous Sidewinders.

F-16CG Fighting Falcons from Eielson Air Force Base and F-15E Strike Eagles at Elmendorf will receive both systems several years from now.

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