F-35's Fancy New Helmets Come With Wild Price Tag

And also some serious problems
By Michael Harthorne,  Newser Staff
Posted Oct 27, 2015 5:44 PM CDT
F-35's Fancy New Helmets Come With Big Price Tag
The Pentagon's expensive new F-35s come with some very expensive helmets.   (AP Photo/Rick Bowmer)

How cool does a helmet have to be before you can justify spending $400,000 on one? That's the question before the Pentagon, which is expected to spend around $1 billion on helmets for its new fleet of state-of-the-art F-35s, the Air Force Times reports. In fairness to the Pentagon, the new helmet—which costs four times as much as any other helmet—is pretty cool. Six cameras on the outside of the plane project images onto the pilot's visor, giving him or her a 360-degree view, including through the bottom of the plane. The helmets also have built-in night vision and display speed, targets, altitude, and more on the visors. "The helmet is much more than a helmet," Air Force Chief of Staff Mark Welsh says. "Calling this thing a helmet...we've got to come up with a new word."

But Dan Grazier with the Project on Government Oversight tells the Times he thinks the helmets are an overcomplicated solution to simple problems. Each helmet is built to the specifications of individual pilots, which means no sharing helmets or reusing them. The Washington Post reports pilots lighter than 136 pounds are currently prohibited from flying the F-35s because they could suffer potentially fatal whiplash while ejecting with the heavy helmet on their heads. In addition, images from the helmet's cameras are jittery during turbulence, and a green glow from the night vision is hurting pilots' vision. Experts aren't sure these will be simple fixes. “I never want to say anything’s easy in the F-35 program, because nothing is ever easy,” Air Force Lt. Gen. Christopher Bogdan tells the Post. (More Air Force stories.)

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