Pilots equipped with a helmet-mounted display (HMD) such as the Saab Cobra for Gripen C/D are much better able to combat targets on the ground and in the air.

By aiming the head rather than the entire aircraft at the target, the pilot can rapidly lock the homing device using HOTAS (hands on throttle and stick) and take advantage of the missile’s performance capabilities. A missile can operate with much higher g-forces than an aircraft; the ratio is roughly 60 g for a missile to 9 g for Gripen.

Jakob Högberg is a Saab pilot who uses an HMD. “You can use a different technique with an HMD,” he says. “HMD provides better situational awareness, the pinpointing options are simpler and we are faster at shooting.”

A helmet-mounted visor displays flight information such as altitude and airspeed, along with pinpointing and details of targets detected in the surrounding area. “Reality is combined with the system since the pinpointing is superimposed over what the pilot sees,” says Högberg.

The helmet is integrated with other systems on Gripen, and it is customised to the pilot’s head to ensure that the visor is positioned at the right height and distance from the pilot’s eyes. Otherwise there is a risk of the pilot experiencing double vision or image loss. The helmet sensors must also be calibrated with sensors in the aircraft so that the information is displayed in the right place in relation to reality.