Hensoldt and BAE Systems to develop new fighter-pilot helmet for UK Royal Air Force

Hensoldt and BAE Systems to collaborate on contract awarded by the UK Ministry of Defence to develop the Striker II helmet-mounted display

The South African optronics arm of German sensor technologies firm Hensoldt has announced a new collaboration agreement with BAE Systems. The partnership will be centred on the development of the Striker II helmet-mounted display for the UK Royal Air Force’s Typhoon fleet.

Building on the two firms’ ongoing collaboration and the development of the previous iteration, the Striker I helmet, Hensoldt South Africa will supply the advanced optic sensors for the evolved Striker II version and will be responsible for developing its intelligent tracking system.

An advanced fighter pilot helmet with optical tracking

Developed at BAE Systems in Rochester, UK, the Striker II helmet is what Hensoldt is calling “one of the world’s most advanced fighter pilot helmets.” Along with the latest technologies that it integrate is all-digital night vision system and daylight-readable colour display, and the helmet also incorporates the optical tracking system developed by Hensoldt’s optronics business in South Africa.

Apart from the Hensoldt advanced optic sensors that will be used in the helmet, the firm will also be developing the system’s inertial storage driver unit (ISDU), the electronic component Hensoldt says will provide the helmet with its “intelligence.”

This ISDU component uses algorithms to convert data gathered from the helmet’s sensors, as well as from the aircraft, its navigational data, and information about the aircraft’s surroundings, into intelligible symbols displayed right on the pilot’s visor. According to the company, this real-time situational awareness empowers pilots to make swift, informed decisions, which results in an elevated tactical advantage.

Hensoldt BAE Systems Striker II
Striker II Helmet Credit: Hensoldt

Moreover, the firm deems that the Striker II helmet represents “a paradigm shift as a fully digital solution” that offers pilots exceptional night vision and target tracking capabilities within a seamlessly integrated visor-projected helmet system.  

By transforming the pilot’s visor into an augmented reality interface, overlaying mission-critical data onto the real-world environment, the firm claims that the Striker II both enhances situational awareness in the cockpit, and also addresses the need to mitigate what pilots can experience as sensory overload.

“Striker II will provide the RAF’s Typhoon pilots with a crucial advantage – offering unrivalled situational awareness from the cockpit while helping to avoid sensory overload, which is vital in a high-tech and fast-paced environment,” said Andrea Thompson, Managing Director – Europe & International, BAE Systems’ Air Sector. “This contract will enable our electronics and combat air experts to work together to develop the helmet to further enhance the critical role Typhoon pilots play in round-the-clock defence and security of our nation.”

An evolution of Striker I

The new contract marks the evolution of Striker II from its predecessor, the Striker I helmet, which was developed by BAE Systems, and supported by Hensoldt in a collaboration that has spanned over a twenty-year period.

“Hensoldt is proud to bolster BAE Systems’ efforts to ensure that the Striker’s capabilities remain at the forefront of innovation,” says Deon Olivier, Chief Executive of Hensoldt’s Optronics’ business in South Africa.

Direct impact for Hensoldt South Africa

With BAE Systems’ contract from the UK Ministry of Defence valued at £40 million (roughly €46 482 807), Hensoldt’s involvement in the project is set to generate substantial foreign direct investment for South Africa, while simultaneously supporting a significant number of highly skilled jobs at the company’s Irene site in the country, which already counts 400 employees.

Beyond its Irene location, Hensoldt has four other sites in South Africa, making it one of the company’s largest industrial bases outside of Europe and one of the largest defence and security electronics companies in South Africa.

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