June 25 - A prototype helmet system allowing fighter pilots and soldiers on the battlefield real-time situational awareness was unveiled at last week's Paris Air Show by US defence manufacturers Raytheon. Called the Joint Tactical Air Controller system - or JTAC - the technology is designed to help prevent friendly-fire incidents where pilots inadvertantly attack their allies. Jim Drury saw it demonstrated.
. Friendly fire, in which warplanes mistakenly bomb forces on the same side, is a hazard of modern warfare. At least 18 people were killed in this incident when a US warplane hit a convoy of Kurdish fighters during the Iraq War. But US defence manufacturers Raytheon believe they have the answer....their Joint Tactical Air Controller system prototype. Raytheon's general manager of intelligence information John Harris says JTAC's centrepiece is a custom-made helmet-mounted head tracker, featuring similar technology to Google Glass. It's used with an off-the shelf wrist-worn smartphone and mini computer. SOUNDBITE (English) JOHN HARRIS, GENERAL MANAGER OF INTELLIGENCE INFORMATION IN SERVICES FOR RAYTHEON, SAYING: "This actually has the power of a laptop in a very small compact size, very power efficient. It includes the full colour heads-up display. Again the person can use it without any kind of occluded view, so they have complete use of both eyes without any concern, and finally the personally worn display system which again provides all the information around the mission, around communications, information with respect to friend or foe." Dismounted soldiers could use the system to target an enemy camp and relay the information to a fighter jet pilot in flight, and others involved in an attack. SOUNDBITE (English) JOHN HARRIS, GENERAL MANAGER OF INTELLIGENCE INFORMATION IN SERVICES FOR RAYTHEON, SAYING: "It could be another group on the ground, it could be an aircraft flying nearby but what this does is give that information, digital information, to the user community to make much better informed decisions about engagements." Designed to work in real time, Harris says JTAC would eliminate the mistakes caused by delayed communication, such as friendly fire incidents. It's still only a working prototype, although similar technology, Raytheon's F-16 cockpit upgrade, will this summer be available to US Air Force pilots. Raytheon technolofy director Todd Lovell..... SOUNDBITE (English) TODD LOVELL, TECHNOLOGY DIRECTOR AT RAYTHEON INTELLIGENCE INFORMATION AND SERVICES, SAYING: "The large format screen provides a moving map with tactical overlays, gives them much greater situational awareness on the battlefield. As well as...the high resolution display allows them to display targeting video that allows them to see and identify targets at a much greater range than the older lower resolution displays." Raytheon says improving the situational awareness of both pilots and soldiers on the ground could save lives and give a vital edge on the modern battlefield.