With fighter and trainer manufacturers looking to fit large-area cockpit displays, BAE Systems has developed a head-up display (HUD) that dramatically reduces the installation volume required.

The company has already submitted several fixed-price bids to supply the new LiteHUD, which replaces the bulky optics with a 1-in.-thick optical waveguide, says Mark Hiseman, program director.

The Lockheed Martin F-35 has a single large-format, touch-sensitive cockpit display, but no HUD. Other manufacturers are looking to follow suit, but want to retain the head-up display.

“The opportunities tend to be cockpit upgrades, and there is a lot of investment in existing HUDs that manufacturers want to reuse,” Hiseman says.

But the size of a conventional HUD makes it difficult to replace the instruments in an existing cockpit with a single large liquid-crystal display.

A head-up display projects flight symbology and sensor imagery on a glareshield-mounted optical combiner that superimposes the information on the pilot’s view of the outside world.

Instead of projecting an image through a series of optical elements onto the HUD combiner, the LiteHUD injects the image into a flat holographic waveguide for projection onto the combiner.

The waveguide “is a piece of glass — we call it the diving board — that bounces the light around to expand the image in both directions, then bounces it off the combiner,” he says. “It replaces the big, heavy and expensive optics.”

The digital image generator and optical waveguide are both thin enough to allow the installation of a large-area display and retention of the HUD capability in an existing cockpit.

The LiteHUD is a development of the waveguide technology in BAE’s Q-HUD helmet-mounted display (HMD), used by the U.K. as a helicopter door-gun sighting system. A binocular Q-HUD HMD is under development by BAE as the alternate helmet-mounted display for the F-35.

The LiteHUD will match the brightness, resolution and field-of-view of existing HUDs, Hiseman says, while offering lower weight and power as well as a larger eye motion box, making installation easier.

BAE’s research has taken the LiteHUD to a technology readiness level of 5, he says, “and we are ready to take it into development for a platform. We have been bidding it for a number of firm fixed-price contracts.”