The USAF and Lockheed Martin have commenced the integration of the Automatic Ground Collision Avoidance System (Auto-GCAS) onto the F-35, some seven years ahead of scheduled.
The Auto-GCAS system was developed by a combined USAF and industry team and was tested by the F-35 Integrated Test Force (ITF) at Edwards AFB, and will enable an automatic fly-up away from terrain in the event the aircraft’s pilot is incapacitated. The system has been tested and fielded on USAF F-16s since 20013, and has been credited with saving eight pilots from controlled flight into terrain (CFIT) accidents.
“This is a great day for the warfighter as the Auto-GCAS is a proven system that is long overdue,” F-35 Program Executive Officer Lt Gen Eric Fick said in a statement. “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.”
The Auto-GCAS system was originally planned to be fielded on the F-35 in 2026, but following a rapid test and development program, it was cleared to be integrated in April 2019. Initially USAF F-35As will receive the upgrade, but USMC and USN F-35Bs and F-35Cs will follow. The Auto-GCAS team was recognised in June with the awarding of the prestigious National Aeronautic Association’s 2018 Robert J Collier Trophy.