Typhoon helmet

Typhoon helmet - front and back view
The Typhoon’s latest weapon isn’t something slung under the wing – but a system with ‘brains’ that sits on the pilot’s head.

About the helmet

It looks like something out of Star Wars; it performs like something out of Star Wars...For the fast-jet fighter pilots of the future – it could just make the difference between life and death. The Typhoon’s latest weapon isn’t something slung under the wing but a system with ‘brains’ that sits on the pilot’s head. The ‘Helmet Mounted Symbology System’ is a highly sophisticated helmet and support system that lets the pilot ‘see’ through the body of the aircraft, giving them a vital advantage when it comes to split-second decision-making.

How it works

Using the new helmet system, the pilot can now look at multiple targets, lock-on to them, and then, by voice-command, prioritise them.
Illustration showing how the Typhoon helmet works
Illustration showing how the Typhoon helmet works
  1. Radar in the nose of the Typhoon detects enemy aircraft hidden from his view in the airspace below.
  2. As the pilot looks down the position of the enemy aircraft is projected onto his visor. He can then lock-on to the aircraft by voice-command so it is tracked by the aircraft's weapons systems.
  3. The pilot can also lock-on to enemy aircraft number 2 closing rapidly in over his right shoulder.
  4. He can then prioritise his targets by voice command before engaging his weapons.

It’s a lightning-fast system to let the pilot look, lock-on, and fire. Wherever the pilots head turns, his sensors and weapons face the same direction. Imagery projected onto the pilot’s visor gives, amongst other information, speed, heading and height – and crucially, it also gives the precise position of any enemy aircraft or missiles. The imagery, which remains stable and accurate at all viewing angles, means the pilot can make rapid decisions without ever having to take their eyes off the target.

What the pilot thinks

This is a major advance in terms of combat capability and is something that gives Typhoon pilots a significant advantage when it comes to air combat. There is no doubt in my mind that the Eurofighter Typhoon leads the world in terms of this kind of capability – and this is something that all who have worked on the system can feel extremely proud of. It is a major advance in aviation capability.

Mark Bowman, BAE Systems Chief Test Pilot

Why is it so special?

Conventional systems mean pilots have to point the aircraft in the direction they want to fire to get the enemy in a field of view before they engage their weapons. The super helmet system allows the pilot to let his helmet do the pointing without having to waste vital time manoeuvring the aircraft - giving a big advantage in combat.

Mark Bowman in Typhoon helmet
Mark Bowman in Typhoon helmet

Sensors working overtime

The bumps (infra-red LED’s) are used to calculate the pilot’s head position and its angle. The LEDs on the helmet flash and the 3 sensors in the cockpit detect the flashing. The data is then used to calculate where the pilot is looking. As the pilot turns his head, the system continually re-configures to use the best sensor and LED combination to give the most accurate result. Accurate targeting is immediate; there’s no delay
Typhoon helmet top and side view
Typhoon helmet top and side view

Made to measure

The beam of light that shines out of the display needs to line up with the pilots pupil. The helmet is lightweight with total head support mass 1.9kg and is custom fitted for comfort and balance. The helmet is made to measure for each pilot because it has to fit perfectly to ensure the weight is distributed evenly. The pilot's head is scanned with a laser for size and shape and a 3D model of the is then developed along. Other measurements taken include the distance between the eyes. The inner lining is manufactured to the exact shape of the pilot's head and is finished in Italian leather.


Every picture tells a story

The pilot has a binocular display. The view is 40 degrees fully overlapped which means that both eyes get the same picture. This makes it more relaxing for the pilot over long periods of time as monocular display can cause fatigue.