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Special forces units are specially trained to gather intelligence and operate behind enemy lines. Upgrades to the NH90 helicopter for special forces significantly improve mission capabilities and position the new variant as one of the highest-performance tactical transport helicopters in the world, especially for extreme environmental conditions such as brownout, whiteout, fog and dark night operations.

The helicopter manufacturer NHIndustries has chosen the new-generation TopOwl digital display helmet from Thales for the special forces variant of the NH90 helicopter. This variant has been developed at the request of the French defense procurement agency (DGA) to meet the requirements of France’s special forces and is also available to partner countries and other NH90 customers. 

This digital generation of the TopOwl helmet system uses augmented reality to enhance the operational capabilities of combat helicopter pilots, especially when flying in highly degraded visual environments. TopOwl has also been selected for the Standard 3 upgrade of the Tiger combat helicopter being developed jointly by France, Germany and Spain.

The TopOwl helmet has been in service since 2005 and has been combat-proven in multiple theatres of operations. The new digital generation offers higher-definition rendering and live lossless video streaming to expand the helicopter’s flight envelope in degraded visual environments. It leverages the latest digital technologies and is cybersecure by design.

TopOwl Digital Display reduces pilot fatigue and enables crew-members to cooperate more efficiently, which is crucial to success on the most difficult missions, by displaying relevant information in the pilot’s line of sight and incorporating a spatialized audio alert system and ambient noise reduction technology.

TopOwl also offers flight safety functionality for non-line-of-sight operations, using a combination of augmented reality, synthetic terrain data and information from 2D and 3D cameras and other sensors, according to