A new Top Gun-style helmet which allows fighter jet pilots to see in the dark will take to the skies over Lancashire later this year.
The digital Striker II helmet, developed by defence giant BAE Systems, is fitted with a high-definition night vision camera which gives pilots pin-sharp vision after dark and prevents them having to wear heavy night vision goggles.
It also comes with state-of-the-art tracking technology beamed on to the inside of a visor giving pilots real-time data in front of their eyes.
The company revealed at last week’s Farnborough International Air Show that the helmet will be tested from its base at Warton before the end of the year.
Mark Bowman, Chief Test Pilot for BAE Systems Military Air and Information (MAI) business, said the evolution from the Striker I helmet unveiled by the company two years ago brought it “into the digital age.” He said: “Traditionally, we’ve been constrained with having to put night vision goggles in front of the pilot’s eyes, now we’ve been able to integrate that into the helmet with something which is very similar to what you see on HD television.
“The pilot gets a high-definition picture over a wide field of view which is important to increase his awareness of what is around him to get that combat advantage.
“We have a full 24-hour capability for the pilot, it doesn’t matter if it’s day or night, the pilot will be able to use all the benefits this helmet brings.”
The helmet was developed and manufactured by BAE Systems Electronic Systems business, based in Rochester, Kent, alongside the MAI business which is headquartered at Warton, where it employs more than 6,000 people.
Speaking at the unveiling of the helmet at last week’s Farnborough International Air Show, Electronic Systems’ Chris Colston said removing the goggles would change the helmet’s centre of gravity, reducing neck strain and restrictions to the pilot’s movement when flying in the dark.
The goggles can weigh up to half-a-kilogram which increases by nine times when a fighter jet accelerates.
At Farnborough, one of the biggest air shows in the global defence calendar, BAE Systems also signed contracts to continue work on next generation radars on the Eurofighter Typhoon jets it assembles at Warton and revealed the Typhoon programme had spent nearly £30m with North West supply chain companies in 2013.