UPDATE 1-Pentagon to focus on Rockwell-Elbit helmet for F-35
WASHINGTON, Oct 10 (Reuters) - The Pentagon said on Thursday it would halt work on a second pilot helmet being developed for the F-35 fighter jet by Britain's BAE Systems Plc, and focus exclusively on the main helmet built by Rockwell Collins Inc and Israel's Elbit Systems Ltd.
The Pentagon's F-35 program office said the move followed improvements to the Rockwell-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.
Lockheed Martin Corp is building three variants of the new fighter plane for the U.S. military and eight countries that helped fund its development.
Pilots will see data from the plane's many cameras and other sensors in the vizor of their helmet - a sophisticated new system that will allow pilots to literally see through the wings and floor of the aircraft.
In a statement, the F-35 program office said the new "Gen 3" helmet developed by the Rockwell-Elbit joint venture would cost 12 percent less than previously estimated. The new helmet would 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 U.S. Marine Corps will use the current "Gen 2" version of the helmet when it begins using the new warplanes in combat in mid-2015.
The new version of the helmet also includes new liquid-crystal displays, automated alignment and software improvements. It was developed to address concerns about the current helmet, including a green glow that made it difficult to use the helmet at night, a lag in data being displayed on the vizor, and some "jitter" during high-angle turns.
The F-35 program office said the "Helmet Mounted Display System" gave fighter pilots all the information they needed to complete their missions - through all weather, day or night.