F-35 Pilot Seems Unimpressed With Jet's X-Ray-Like Vision

Illustration for article titled F-35 Pilot Seems Unimpressed With Jet's X-Ray-Like Vision

F-35 pilot Maj. John Wilson is back in the second part of his interview with our friends at Krigeren.dk. This time the conversation moved from the F-35’s capabilities, especially those as a close air support platform, to the jet’s much-touted half a million dollar helmet with quasi-X-Ray vision, a feature the Major seems less than impressed with.


The Major’s lackluster enthusiasm for the technology is understandable. Clearly, it still has a long way to go to be fully integrated into the F-35’s concept of operations and the clarity of the F-35’s Distributed Aperture System, which has been a major sticking point in the past, along with the aircraft’s Electro Optical Targeting System (EOTS), remains a major issue.

Yet as he also states, the F-35’s X-Ray like vision may not be a huge game-changer yet in the cockpit, but the DAS system does so many other things that X-Ray vision is just an added feature built into the system (you can learn about the system’s potential here). Major Wilson elaborates in the video:

“It’s got limited utility, it’s for general awareness only… You can’t really target with it unless it’s something really big, or if it’s like a boat on the water you can see that… It’s just for general awareness, what’s underneath me, what’s around me… It’s cool, to be honest with you I don’t really use it all that often, the reason being is that if I really want to see what is underneath me I will just look outside, I will just roll up. It doesn’t take that much longer for me to just bank up there airplane and look… Because I can see it with greater clarity… It’s just an added benefit. That is not the primary function of those cameras.”


It’s great to see someone directly involved in the program talk truthfully about it without all the corporate propaganda talk.

Later in the video he also delves back into the realm of visibility out of the F-35’s cockpit, especially towards the rear, which is largely non-existent, an issue that has become incredibly controversial, along with the jet’s sluggish agility. It’s a good watch.


Contact the author at Tyler@jalopnik.com.



It’s not surprising. If the key to the F-35’s effectiveness is net-centric warfare (and it very much is,) DAS is crucial; The actual x-ray vision part? Not so much. Likewise, the F-35’s shortcomings as a dogfighter have been discussed at length, but its value as a surveillance/early warning system for its fellow combatants is only just starting to be recognized in the armchair general community. Tyler was one of the earliest journalists to acknowledge it.