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Pentagon Stops Development of BAE Systems F-35 Helmet

Oct. 10 (Bloomberg) -- The Pentagon’s program office for the F-35 fighter jet has decided to stop development of a backup helmet by BAE Systems Plc that was in the works as the Defense Department sought improvements in Rockwell Collins Inc.’s primary headpiece, according to a statement to Congress.

The Defense Department cited progress by Rockwell Collins in correcting technical deficiencies in its helmet. Rockwell Collins, based in Cedar Rapids, Iowa, will offer a 12 percent discount on the price of its helmet, according to the statement.

The program office “will focus solely” on bringing the Rockwell Collins helmet, which is now being used in testing and training, up to a fully compliant standard, according to the statement. The introduction of BAE’s competition encouraged a reduction in Rockwell Collins’s price, the Pentagon said.

The helmet is a vital component on the $391.2 billion program to buy 2,443 jets for the Air Force, Marine Corps and Navy. The Lockheed Martin Corp. aircraft is often described as a flying computer, with pilots using the helmet’s glass display as their primary means of access to information such as altitude, airspeed and the location of enemy fighters.

The helmet has been dogged by several persistent glitches, including jittery images during maneuvers, misaligned symbols and a “green glow,” or insufficient display contrast, Frank Kendall, the Pentagon’s undersecretary for acquisition, told senators in June testimony.

‘Significant Progress’

“Last year, the program made significant progress against these challenges” using flight tests to identify and analyze the issues, Kendall said.

The F-35 program will recoup about $45 million from money it had allocated for developing an alternate helmet, Lockheed Martin said today in a statement.

“The government’s decision to proceed exclusively with the principal helmet is indicative of their confidence in the helmet’s performance and the successful resolution of previously identified technical challenges,” Lockheed Martin Executive Vice President Lorraine Martin said in the statement.

To contact the reporter on this story: Tony Capaccio in Washington at acapaccio@bloomberg.net

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