The USAF’s 412th test wing at Edwards AFB has recommended the F-35 Automatic Ground and Collision Avoidance System (AGCAS) be released for operations, seven years ahead of the planned schedule.
Initially trialled aboard an F-16, the AGCAS is designed to take control and automatically fly an aircraft away from the ground or a potential airborne conflict in the event its pilot is incapacitated. It uses a suite on onboard sensors and monitors and flight data to determine if the aircraft is in danger of impacting terrain, and based on the aircraft’s trajectory, speed, and lack of input from the pilot, will calculate and conduct a safe recovery.
The testing has been conducted by the 461st Flight Test Squadron which operates the F-35 Integrated Test Force (ITF), a combined multi-national effort which uses aircraft from the US, UK and Netherlands, and staff from all the partner nations including flight test engineers and maintenance personnel from Australia.
“The 461st FLTS is passionate about identifying, developing, and implementing technology that will benefit the warfighter,” squadron commander and ITF director, Lt Col Tucker Hamilton said in a release. “With respect to Auto GCAS, we knew how important this technology was for the warfighter and did everything in our power to accelerate it; protecting those that go into harm’s way.”
The GCAS team consisted of personnel from the USAF, F-35 Joint Program Office (JPO), NASA, Lockheed-Martin and the Defense Safety Oversight Council. The ultimate decision on the fielding timeframe for GCAS will be made by the JPO and the USAF.