Elbit gives virtual enemies to IAF cadets in real flight

‘THE JERUSALEM POST’ is given a demonstration of Elbit’s latest helmet that the IAF is soon to be using to train future flight cadets.

‘THE JERUSALEM POST’ is given a demonstration (photo credit: MARC ISRAEL SELLEM/THE JERUSALEM POST)
‘THE JERUSALEM POST’ is given a demonstration
A few thousand feet below us, a green Mount Tabor, near Megiddo, glistened in the sun, as our Cherokee propeller plane banked left rather sharply, and dropped in altitude.
The reason for the maneuver was that our aircraft had just come under attack. A ground threat – an SA-6 surface-to-air missile battery – had been spotted at the foot of the mountain, and it fired a volley of missiles. The pilot took evasive action to dodge the incoming threats.
While I felt the gravitational forces from a very real turn, only the SA-6 and its missiles were virtual, visible only to me as green video objects, via Elbit’s Targo Helmet Mounted Avionics (HMA) system. They had been sent into my field of vision via the helmet, by Yaron Kranz, the company’s senior director of business development and research and development.
He was sitting behind me onboard the aircraft.
Minutes earlier, a MiG-29 fighter jet had attacked, and our little propeller plane engaged it in an old-school dogfight.
I turned my head, following a green line that eventually led to the MiG’s location, and the helmet then indicated that a radar lock was in place. Our humble Cherokee proceeded to “fire missiles” at the hostile aircraft until it was destroyed.
At the bottom of my sphere of vision, I could see our altitude, speed, and the number of SV (satellite vehicles) that were in touch with the Targo HMA to provide it with GPS coordinates.
Kranz had agreed to give The Jerusalem Post a demonstration of a helmet that brings embedded training to a new level, which is why the Israel Air Force has purchased the Targo, and plans to equip future flight cadets with it as they train to fly in Italian Alenia Aermacchi M-346 Master planes.
In training the future pilots of F-35s, and F-15 and F-16 jets, the IAF sought to provide the flight cadets with a full combat flight experience early in their training program.
“Instead of burning expensive fuel in jets, the IAF can use the same flight hour in an M-346 plane, at a 10th of the price, and train its cadets with the helmet. It’s much cheaper.
The Italian planes will arrive ready to be linked up to the helmet,” the soft-spoken former air force pilot said.
Kranz flew Phantoms for the IAF for 25 years before retiring.
He has spent the past 15 years developing helmet mounted systems, and remarks with a quiet pride that Elbit and its subsidiaries have developed a majority of the head mounted displays available on the global market.
That control includes a helmet that is to come standard with Lockheed Martin’s F-35 Joint Strike Fighter.
Earlier, in a briefing room at a small civilian airport, Kranz explained why the IAF chose Targo to train its future generation of pilots with.
Once slipped on, the helmet provides pilots with a 360-degree experience of multi-sensory input. The helmet is so adaptable that it can be hooked up to anything from a jet’s mission computer to a smart phone to load missions, depending on the requirements of the client.
“It can be hooked up to an iPad that would feed it with a basic simulation program. It’ll load missions from any computer, and can receive scenarios wireless,” Krantz said. “It can be controlled via a smart phone application,” Kranz said, “or from older avionics.”
That means that civilian customers can use tablets as flight data handlers. And air forces can use the Targo for real combat missions, as well as training.
The strength of the computer determines the quality of the input, he added. The helmet comes with a day visor and a removable night vision visor.
“Helmets have a legacy of being very expensive. But this is affordable, and there’s no need for specialized integration with the plane. That saves millions,” Kranz added.