The US Marine Corps (USMC) is to upgrade a number of its McDonnell-Douglas AV-8B Harrier II+ combat aircraft with a helmet-mounted cueing system (HMCS) for the pilot.
The planned upgrade, which was disclosed in late November, will cover 48 of the USMC's 75 AV-8B Harrier II+ (improved radar) aircraft (the corps also fields 34 AV-8B Harrier II and 16 TAV-8B Harrier II aircraft). A request for information (RFI) issued by the Naval Air Systems Command (NAVAIR) noted its intention to fit the pilot's existing HGU-68/P helmet to enhance the Harrier's close air support attack capabilities in support of Marine Expeditionary Units (MEUs).
The HMCS would provide improved situational awareness with flight and weapon system symbology projected directly into the pilot's line of sight, with the RFI setting out a number of performance parameters for the system that are largely focused on compatibility with the host aircraft and safety for the pilot during ejection.
NAVAIR said it requires six systems by 15 January 2020 to integrate with the H7.1 Operational Flight Program (OFP) upgrade plan for the Harrier. The wider upgrade is to begin in November 2022, with 48 aircraft equipped with the HMCS by December 2023.
An HMCS is one of the enhancements for the Harrier that NAVAIR has been considering over recent years as it looks to maintain the platform out to its planned retirement date of 2026. Other enhancements include Link 16 (approved as part of the OFP H6.2 capability drop in 2016) and Variable Message Format (VMF) integration for digital interoperability; expansion of the AIM-120 Advanced Medium-Range Air-to-Air Missile (AMRAAM) envelope; and radar relevance and sustainment.
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