Editor’s Note: This is a subject we’re watching closely, as a handful of our good friends fly the F-35 in the Air Force and Marine Corps. I remember looking at the helmet the first time I visited the F-35 ITF at Edwards, and it’s a monstrosity. Just over four pounds. Heavier than JHMCS. That was in 2011 and the helmet has undergone revision since then, but it’s still heavy, and still a cause of concern for pilots during high-G maneuvers, and especially during the ejection sequence.

The F-35 joint program office will begin testing the first prototype of the new, lightweight Generation III helmet later this month, with the hope of resolving by November issues with the jet’s escape system that have kept some pilots grounded.

The JPO and industry will begin testing Rockwell Collins’ latest version of the F-35 helmet, built to be about 6 ounces lighter than the original Gen III helmet, in late March, said Maj. Gen. Jeffrey Harrigian, director of the F-35 integration office. This will be the first time the JPO has tested the full-up Gen III “Light,” although the program office has tested a modified helmet that is about the same weight as the light version, he said.

F-35 Helmet: Tests To Begin On Lighter Version
Major Brad Matherne views the flightline inside an F-35A Lightning II before a training mission April 4, 2013, at Nellis Air Force Base, Nevada. (U.S. Air Force photo/Senior Airman Brett Clashman)

The new light helmet is one of three solutions the Pentagon and industry hope will allow the military services to lift restrictions on lightweight pilots flying the F-35. Last year, Defense News first reported that pilots under 136 pounds were barred from flying the fifth-generation aircraft after testers discovered an increased risk of neck damage to lightweight pilots ejecting from the plane. The Air Force has also acknowledged an “elevated level of risk” for pilots between 136 and 165 pounds.

The original article in its entirety can be viewed at Defense News right here.

(Featured photo courtesy Staff Sgt. Marleah Robertson/U.S. Air Force)