A new, lightweight F-35 helmet has been successfully tested, says the F-35 Joint Program Office (JPO). The testing marks a step toward qualifying and implementing three fixes that are needed in the escape system.
Lockheed Martin’s F-35 team conducted the first test of all three solutions designed to reduce the risk of neck injury to lightweight F-35 pilots during ejection. When the full range of testing is complete – which could be completed by the end of summer this year – the JPO can begin implementing two modifications to the ejection seat and issuing the new Generation III ‘light’ helmets.
The sled test, conducted with a 103 lb mannequin, is a sign the three design fixes could be implemented by November, which would allow military services to remove restrictions on lightweight pilots flying the F-35. Testers discovered last year an increased risk of neck damage to lightweight pilots ejecting from the plane.
The lightweight prototype replacement helmet weighs about 4.63 lb, about 6oz less than the original Gen III helmet, which reduces the strain during ejection on smaller pilots’ necks.
The JPO is planning another 10 tests with low, middle and heavier-weight mannequins.
April 29, 2016