Air Force Tests F-22 Helmet-Mounted Cueing System

Thales Helmet-Mounted Cueing SystemF-22 pilots might end up receiving a helmet-mounted cueing system after all.

The U.S. Air Force is testing the Thales Visionix Scoropion helmet-mounted cueing system for the F-22 Raptor at Nellis Air Force Base, Nevada, according to a report by the U.S. Naval Institute’s Dave Majumdar.

Air Force officials had intended to offer the Vision Systems International Joint Helmet-Mounted Cueing System to F-22 pilots. This is the same system used in the F-15, F-16 and the F/A-18. However, problems arose when Congress started picking apart the rising costs of the Raptor and the Air Force chose to forego the helmet-mounted cueing system.

This poses a potential problem for F-22 pilots should they get into a dog fight within visual distance. Of course, the F-22’s advanced radars usually give the Raptor such an advantage over other fighter aircraft that this is not as big a deal. However, the fact the F-22 can’t carry the AIM-9X Sidewinder air-to-air missile only makes this harder for F-22 pilots, Majumdar writes.

Even if the Thales system receives a positive report from the 422nd Test and Evaluation Squadron, plenty of road blocks exist for its integration onto the F-22. First and foremost the budget situation.

The Air Force would have to take money from other programs to pay for this helmet-mounted cueing system at a time when the service is paying an inordinate amount on a different fifth generation fighter jet.

A call Friday to the Air Force’s offices in the Pentagon was returned, but the service didn’t have any updates on the testing.

About the Author

Michael Hoffman
Michael Hoffman is the executive editor at Tandem NSI and a contributor to He can be reached at
  • William_C1

    I think the F-22 can actually carry the AIM-9X, but without the HMCS they are stuck using it like the AIM-9M. No high off-boresight snap-shots.

  • hibeam

    Google is involved in this type of technology now, so it will start to move forward in a big way and costs will plummet. Driven by big government it would only move at a snails pace and cost a friggin fortune. That’s just how big gov rolls.

  • dogfighter

    very true hibeam

    • larry

      The consumer stuff Google is doing is totally different than the stuff required for the military. For example I doubt the google glasses have to work while the user is pulling 9g’s :)

      • hibeam

        Good point. Its incredibly difficult to make a piece of silicon survive the same G forces that a meat sack full of blood filled tubes can tolerate.

        • Rod

          By that logic, you could use a laptop in the pool.

  • Is the information right? The F-22 can’t carry the AIM-9X?

  • Virgil Cuttaway

    The Israeli company Elbit leads the world in helmet systems such as this. Why doesnt the US use their technology other than this? After all, the Chinese and Russians are trying to get such technology themselves.

  • Bernard

    Just cancel the F35 and use the rest to fix the F22.

    • Bronco46

      Only if more F-22’s are built.

  • Tim UK

    Interesting how the USAF and USN are all adopting IRST Typhoon Like sensors and the above helmets . Maybe the stealth factor ain’t all its meant to be ?

    • IRST use on a Stealth system is not correlated. IRST does represent an asymmetric answer to stealth, but the use of the system on the F-22 is more intended to enable high-offset engagements – so you don’t have to point the nose of the jet at the opponent in order to get a shot off. Now, if you could use stealth to get *closer* to your target before detection (off-boresight approach would benefit the sneaking greatly) and *without* having to use a radar for fire-control, guess what? As far as the other guy is concerned, the shot came from nowhere, and that might be the last thing he reports to C3I.

  • Steve B.

    My first thought was that the F22 doesn’t really want to get close enough to want to need such a system. Then, on 2nd thought, I realized that if you CAN get close enough without detection, better to use a close-in weapon which reduces the reaction time.

  • blight_

    Interesting, it’ll be similar to a system used on army helicopters?

    Though you’d think if the Air Force was using JHMCS you’d want to stick to one type of helmet mounted cueing system…groan! Even adding another line item to the inventory will probably eat the per unit savings.

  • BlackOwl18E

    You mean to tell me that they are retrofitting something already mounted on the F/A-18E/F to the F-22 to make it more effective? I guess stealth doesn’t work for everything.

    • SirSapo

      So the Raptor finally gets some equipment that it was always slated to receive and suddenly stealth is dead again? Don’t make such a big deal about the SHornet having JHMCS, so does the F-16, F-15C, F-15E, Legacy Hornets… the list goes on and on…

      HMCS have a lot more benefits than just cueing off-boresight missiles.

  • jeff check

    dont forget the f22 got flogged badly against the Typhoons in a knife fight simulation a couple years ago – i believe it was a 50/50 score. The 22 needs every advantage it can get with its huge size and lack of winglets.

    • bobbymike

      Do you mean lack of canards? And no they don’t make a difference other than to make the Typhoon a larger radar profile.

      Anytime you put two highly agile fighters in close proximity (purposefully take away the F-22’s advantage) losses for both aircraft are high.

      When the F-22 is allowed to fight as it was intended you get a situation where the ground controller just radios you and says ‘you’re dead’ NOT EVEN knowing the F-22 was out there.

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  • Brian B. Mulholland

    Tim UK has a point. Chinese and Russian advances in stealth and AESA technology are coming faster then we’d hoped. That said, the short answer to his question is that a Typhoon pilot who spots a hostile F-22 missile launch on a Pirate (or other externally carried sensor) is most likely to do so in a longer-range encounter where the F-22 sees the target first (externally podded sensors enhance radar signatures) and takes that first shot. And possibly the second, too, for enhanced ill probability. I’d take those odds, thank you. Jeff check, I don’t doubt that the F-22’s advantages are gone in a knife fight, so anything that enhances the F-22’s knife fight advantages are worth having. In dry desert air where IR transmission is good, it might well be that a Pirate sensor might negate the AESA advantage.

  • Brian B. Mulholland

    And while we’re on that subject, I’d like to see the US adopt both Meteor and ASRAAM. I found it depressing to read that a Lockheed test pilot climbed out of an F-22 recently and expressed a yearning for a longer-ranged missile than the AIM-120D. ASRAAM is available now, as opposed to the proposed Block III AIM-9X, and so is Meteor. Pity they’re disqualified from American use by NIH limitations.

  • About time…

  • grayeagle57

    The high cost of the F-22 is the man hours needed to maintain the stealth coating. One nick from a bird strike or a dropped wrench and back to the paint shop. On another note, I would hate to wear all of that hardware in a high G environment. If this is the best we can do we need to start over, and sue Lockheed for the cost overruns on the F-35. Kelly Johnson is spinning in his grave.

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  • Guest

    You’d think we would learn from past experiences, like the F-4 Phantom, they thought then it would never be in close combat and so it was designed without a gun.

  • Tyler

    The HMCS is just not a critical aspect of the weapon system that is the F-22. If it is true that the 22 can’t carry the AIM-9X, perhaps it is a physical limitation of the internal bays, but its not because it doesn’t have HMCS. My dad developed the 9X, and demonstrated amazing capability without HMCS or cross-sensor intelligence. Those technologies are not needed for the weapon to be devastating. Sure they increase capability quite a bit. But not having it does not relegate the 22 to the dust pile. Nothing could be further from the truth. AESA combined with stealth, top-shelf maneuverability, and superior training: nothing comes close to the 22. No, not the decades-old-when-it-was-new 4th generation fighter, Typhoon, nor anything our enemies have. But even with that, we learned our lesson from the F-4: the 22 has an amazing gun, and close-in capability as well. HMCS just takes that capability a leap forward.

  • Jenny

    The F-22 with the JSF HMD isn’t compatible with a large percentage of pilots given the constrictions of the upper, inner canopy volume – for tall pilots. This has been tested some time ago, ~ 2009 and a new canopy design will be required to prevent helmet to canopy interference, i.e., impacts,,,, not good for precision optics.