The F-35 Joint Program Office, US Air Force and Lockheed Martin have announced they have begun the integration of the Automatic Ground Collision Avoidance System (Auto-GCAS) on to US Air Force F-35As in the fleet.
The announcement is particularly impressive as it comes seven years earlier than previously planned.
“This is a great day for the warfighter as the Auto-GCAS is a proven system that is long over-due,” said Lieutenant General Eric Fick, F-35 Program Executive Officer.
"Expediting this life-saving technology into the F-35 across the global fleet will bring more warfighters home. Over the service life of the F-35 fleet, having Auto-GCAS is estimated to prevent more than 26 ground collisions from happening. It is indeed a remarkable achievement in aeronautics which will improve the performance, efficiency and safety of the F-35. The time and effort expended to deliver this critical warfighting capability is worth it – it will save lives.”
Auto-GCAS, originally developed for the F-16, uses terrain mapping, geolocation and automation to detect and avoid potential ground collisions.
When the program recognises imminent impact, it prompts the pilot to take action.
However, if the pilot is unresponsive, Auto-GCAS assumes temporary control to divert the aircraft out of harm's way, and then returns control of the aircraft to the pilot once on a safe trajectory.
The system has been operating successfully aboard the F-16 for more than five years and has already been credited with saving eight F-16 pilots’ lives since 2014.
“Early integration of Auto-GCAS in the F-35 is bringing game-changing safety capability to a rapidly growing fleet. It couldn’t have come at a better time as we near full-rate production resulting in more aircraft and pilots exposed to rigorous missions,” said Lieutenant Colonel Darren Wees of the US Air Force’s F-35 Integration Office.
“Many thanks to the tenacious efforts of many organisations, primarily the Air Force Research Lab, Air Force Test Center, Lockheed Martin and the F-35 Joint Program Office, who made this a technical reality as well as the US services and F-35 partner nations that ensured its inclusion in the program. These efforts have already saved lives and aircraft in the F-16, and will save lives in the F-35.”
Auto-GCAS was originally slated for delivery in the 2026 time frame.