Rockwell Collins-Elbit helmet gets nod for F-35 jet

Government to save almost $45 million in funding, officials said

The Pentagon on Thursday said it will focus exclusively on the main F-35 fighter jet helmet built by Cedar Rapids-based Rockwell Collins and Israel's Elbit Systems, ending development of an alternative helmet by Britain's BAE Systems.

While the financial value of the deal for Rockwell Collins will depend on final contract negotiations, many of the components for the Gen 3 helmet will be produced at the company's facilities in the Corridor.

The Pentagon's F-35 program office said the decision followed improvements to the Rockwell Collins-Elbit helmet, including a better night vision camera, and would save about $45 million in funding that would have been needed to finish the BAE helmet.

The F-35 program office said the new Gen 3 helmet developed by Rockwell Collins and Elbit joint venture will cost 12 percent less than previously estimated. The new helmet will be introduced to the F-35 fleet in 2016 as part of the seventh batch of jets to be built under low-rate production, it said.

The Gen 3 helmet will enable F-35 pilots to see data from the plane's many cameras and other sensors in the visor of their helmet. The F-35 program office said the sophisticated new system will allow pilots to literally see through the wings and floor of the aircraft.

The U.S. Marine Corps will use the existing Gen 2 version of the helmet when it begins using the F-35s in combat in mid-2015.

The Gen 3 version of the helmet was developed to address concerns about the Gen 2 helmet, including a green glow that made it difficult for pilots to use the helmet at night, a lag in data being displayed on the vizor, and some "jitter" during high-angle turns.

The Pentagon said the improved helmet will provide fighter pilots with all the information they need to complete their missions, through all weather, day or night.

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