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F-35 program starts addition of ‘life-saving’ software

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.

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“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.

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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.

F-35 program starts addition of ‘life-saving’ software
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