F-35 Fighter Helmets Now Made in Israel


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The New Hampshire Union Leader reported this week that New Hampshire's largest manufacturing employer, BAE Systems, was dealt a financial blow by the Pentagon's F-35 contract.

The Pentagon announced earlier this week that manufacturing for the pilot's helmet of the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter would be performed exclusively by Rockwell Collins in Cedar Rapids, IA and Elbit Systems in Israel. The announcement was part of a $39 million contract announcement that included infrared missile warning systems, spare parts, systems engineering, and technical support coming from BAE Systems.

Although BAE welcomed the news, they were disheartened that they did not receive the contract for the F-35 fighter helmet because their company has a stake in the electronic warfare systems utilized by the fighter. Kristin L. Gossel, director of external engagement for U.S. headquarters of BAE Systems in Arlington, Va, said that the company is "disappointed at the decision by Lockheed Martin and the Joint Strike Fighter Program Office to discontinue the pursuit of a second helmet for the F-35 aircraft."

The F-35 comes equipped with a technically sophisticated helmet that permits pilots an advanced user interface from which to view the battlefield. Lockheed Martin's spokesperson, Laura Siebert, said that stopping BAE's work on the helmet would save $47 million, and that $57 million had already been spent on BAE's efforts.

The AFP reports that the Israel-based Elbit systems was also involved in the F-35 project by means of aircraft parts, and Israeli Defense Minister Moshe Yaalon saw the Pentagon's decision as "a vote of confidence in Israel's defence industries and their people... I congratulate Elbit Systems on becoming a partner in this global flagship project to produce the world's most advanced warplane."

The Israeli daily newspaper Yediot Aharanot reported that Israel's air force has already ordered 19 F-35 fighters, and that the Israeli-made helmet would be "part and parcel" of all stealth aircraft made from 2016 onward. 4000 F-35 fighters are currently slated for manufacture, meaning the Pentagon contract could be worth over $1 billion over a decade.

Although the software is Israeli-made, the new helmet will be not be made entirely by Israel; its final manufacture will be performed by Rockwell Collins in the United States.

Here's some footage of an F-35 Joint Strike Fighter:

[Image via this YouTube video of Lockheed Martin F-35 testing]