Reservist talks about futuristic F-35 helmet

Staff Sgt. Joseph Hicks, 419th Operations Support Flight, became the first reservist at Hill’s aircrew flight equipment shop to work with state-of-the-art helmets for the F-35 Lightning II, the Air Force’s newest fighter jet.

As an AFE technician, Hicks maintains and stores pilot gear, including helmets, G-suits, harnesses, parachutes, and survival kits. He also provides training to the pilots on the equipment.

“Everything we work on has a lifesaving capacity, and making sure it functions to its full capability is on us,” said Hicks, who has been serving in the Air Force Reserve for nearly three years.

There are currently six trained F-35 pilots in the 419th Fighter Wing, and each has been issued a new Gen III helmet. Hicks said the helmet is a significant leap in technology from its F-16 predecessor.

Features of the helmet include six external cameras, built-in night vision, and more balanced weight distribution. The streamlined design means fewer accessory attachments than the F-16 helmet, Hicks said.

“I don’t think I would ever see, touch, or repair anything like this in the civilian world,” Hicks said.

The helmet also offers a custom fit. Each is tailored to the pilot’s head courtesy of a laser-cut foam insert.

Hicks is currently helping to train five other reservists, along with active-duty Airmen in AFE.

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