Helmet Could Sync Imagery Between JTACs, Pilots


Thales Visionix is testing a new helmet joint terminal attack controllers could use to zero-in on their target and relay the same scene back to a pilot coming in for an airstrike.

The helmet technology, called Centaur, hopes to "replace a five minute radio conversation with instant visual communication of where the target is," said John Beck, Thales' senior manager for business development. Centaur stands for communication enabled networked tactical augmented reality.

"Now we can track people outside of vehicles, not just in 3-D space but also azimuth and elevation," Beck told Military.com this week during the Air Force Association's annual Air, Space & Cyber Conference outside of Washington, D.C. Azimuth is the angular distance along the horizon to the location of the object, according to a Cornell project.

"A JTAC can designate a target by just looking at it with this white crosshair," Beck continued. With a "laser range finder on the helmet boresided to the display ... now we can designate a point in space. [That] information goes through the radio, the LINK 16 to the jet. Pilot flying the jet can automatically slew his weapon system to that target, it's got a red kill symbol overlaid on it, sends that image [also visible in the pilot's helmet-mounted display] back down through the network, JTAC says, 'Yup, that's it,' because now he's seeing what the jet is seeing. And bombs away."

When the JTAC designated the target, it becomes a distinct GPS position, he said. The target becomes a red symbol on the pilot's HMCS signaling shoot, yellow if it's unidentifiable and blue for "keep out," Beck explained.

Air Force pilots flying the A-10 ground attack aircraft, F-16 fighter jet and AC-130W gunship use similar technologies in their helmet-mounted cueing system, called Scorpion, which also uses a full-color display. Thales also makes this helmet.

"The added dimension of full-color symbology and video imagery [in Scorpion] dramatically increases the user's ability to rapidly interpret and correlate vital [situational awareness] information," according to the Aurora, Illinois-based company.

For the JTAC component, Thales is still conducting tech events, Beck said. Centaur is likely “a few years out” from being deployed, he said.

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