Gripen E's HMI is a Lot More Than Data Presentation
When it comes to factors behind the success of a battle in the air, situational awareness is of paramount importance. One may possess world-class weapons, but without the ability to assess opposition at the right time, the pilot may not be able to take the control of the battlespace.
Every information, from positional data of hostile and friendly units, to reaction methods at disposal, and missile engagement zones becomes vital. But what about the presentation of this data?
"In the beginning (of human flight), pilots had very little information. Then, with technological growth, we got the information inflation, which was a lot of fun for the engineers, but probably a nightmare for the pilots. That's where the Human-Machine Collaboration (HMC) comes into the picture. It is the combination of Human-Machine Interface (HMI) and tactical systems that offers only the relevant information to the pilot," says Daniela Ivanic, Line manager at Gripen E department of HMI, Saab at the recently held Gripen seminar.
Gripen E's Wide Area Display (WAD) provides information that is critical for the pilot. WAD gives the Gripen pilot a choice to change the map scaling, overlay more than one maps of selected areas, and change customisations by different means i.e., touch, sound etc. “For example, think about your laptop or desktop. If you arrange the items on the desktop, then you will find them easily afterwards when you need something," Daniella says. However, she is quick to add that in case of a Gripen pilot, Saab has included a decision support system. Along with the critical information, the pilot is also presented with prompts on the next possible action.
Jussi Halmetoja, Operations Adviser of Air Domain at Saab Aeronautics, and a former Gripen pilot, gives another example saying Gripen’s HMI not just provides you with information of the current stage of your probability to intercept, but also about what happens next, giving you advice on how to optimize your next step. “So instead of controlling all the parameters and settings to do certain tasks, you can command the system. For instance, if you'd like to detect a low observable, low flying object at range, you can just assign the task to the system which then will optimize all the settings for you. So, it (HMI) is also about using functions like auto sorting and auto-selection of targets, and lowering the mental workload of the pilot,” he adds.
Besides WAD, Gripen E’s cockpit also features Helmet Mounted Display (HMD) and the Head-Up-Display (HUD). HMD projects information to the pilot’s eyes. In case a pilot chooses to not wear the HMD, HUD can present the information without taking away the pilot's attention from the main viewpoints.
The new age HMI of a fighter system like Gripen is a result of years of research. Every prompt offered to the Gripen pilot takes into consideration the possible outcomes and the possible next steps against each one of those outcomes. As Jussi Halmetoja says, “With Gripen, it's not just about perception, it's also about comprehension.”
Watch the Gripen seminar here.