Defense contractor Raytheon has won $4.7 million from the US Government to develop a new wrist-mounted touchscreen computer, helping helicopter pilots maintain "situational awareness" both inside and outside the cockpit. According to an explanatory video, the device — a dummy of which is shown in the image above — will provide information on targets and fellow pilots in a similar way to a heads-up display, offering a quick replacement if the helicopter crashes or if the pilot needs to continue their mission on foot.

The computer is part of the proposed Air Soldier System, a comprehensive set of tools and equipment for helicopter pilots. Its announcement follows news late last month that the US Army is getting ready to deploy Motorola Atrix smartphones as part of a secure battlefield network, but it is not yet clear whether the Air Soldier System will use any off-the-shelf hardware.

Exhibiting at the Farnborough Air Show near London today, Raytheon is also demonstrating new cockpit technology, including surround sound for quickly identifying incoming fire and a system that allows pilots to effectively see through the body of their aircraft. According to the project's business development manager Trevor Bushell, this latter technology is "like flying in a glass ball," streaming high-resolution infrared imagery straight to pilots' helmets.