Pilots from the 23rd Fighter Group's 74th Fighter Squadron (FS) at Moody Air Force Base (AFB) in Georgia used the occasion of the recent Exercise 'Red Flag 13-3' to evaluate the new Scorpion off-boresight, helmet-mounted cueing system (HMCS) for the Fairchild-Republic A-10C Thunderbolt II ground-attack aircraft.
Deployed to Nellis Air Force Base (AFB) for the exercise in late February to mid-March, the crews put the new Gentex Visionix and Lockheed Martin-developed helmet through its paces.
The Scorpion helmet has been developed as a lower-cost alternative to the popular Joint Helmet-Mounted Cueing System (JHMCS). It features a full-colour helmet display system, optical motion tracking, head-steered weapons, 24-hour day and night capability, and integrates with older-style USAF HGU-55 flight helmets to avoid replacement costs.
Captain Ian Whiteman, a 74th FS A-10 pilot, commented to IHS Jane's : "If you're down-range looking at a convoy and an improvised explosive device goes off, you can look to that area and automatically see the symbology for it in your monocle. Then you press a button and all the data you had will slew to your targeting pod, allowing new grids to be created. This minimises the additional time it takes to find what it is you're looking for outside."
The JHMCS projects symbology into a heavy 19 mm crystal, whereas the new Scorpion model generates the display into a lightweight monocle rather than projecting the images. It is also controlled via the aircraft's hands on throttle-and-stick (HOTAS) systems.
The 422nd Test and Evaluation Squadron 'Green Bats' at Nellis AFB is also now expected to evaluate the Scorpion helmet for use on the Lockheed Martin F-22A Raptor fighter. The squadron is currently developing a test plan and expects to conduct the first evaluations of the system with the Raptor this summer. The fighter does not currently have the capability to interface with an HMCS, and integration of the Scorpion will allow the fighter to take full advantage of the AIM-9X missile's high off-boresight dogfighting capabilities.