March 8, 2011: F-35 Automatic Collision Avoidance Technology

  • Published
  • Air Force Flight Test Center

The United States Air Force Research Laboratory’s Automatic Collision Avoidance Technology Fighter Risk Reduction Program (ACAT/FRRP) team was awarded an Aviation Week & Space Technology magazine Laureate Award for its successful development and flight testing of an Automatic Ground Collision Avoidance System (Auto GCAS). The award was announced on 8 March 2011. Among those honored was the National Aeronautics and Space Administration's Dryden Center, which was an integral part of the ACAT/FRRP team. By flight-testing the Auto GCAS system across the entire F-16 flight envelope the team proved the maturity of the technology. As a direct result of this effort, Auto GCAS is now making the transition to operational use in the F-16, F-22 and F-35 fighter aircraft.

The F-35 Joint Program Office, U.S. Air Force and Lockheed Martin (NYSE: LMT) have started integrating the Automatic Ground Collision Avoidance System (Auto-GCAS) on to Air Force F-35As in the fleet. Leveraging a rapid, agile development, test and contracting approach, the joint government and industry team successfully fielded the life-saving technology 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 overdue," said Lt. Gen. 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."

Originally developed for the F-16 in partnership with NASA and the Air Force Research Laboratory, Auto-GCAS uses terrain mapping, geolocation and automation to detect and avoid potential ground collisions. When the program recognizes imminent impact, it will prompt the pilot to take action. 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 Lt. Col. Darren Wees of the Air Force's F-35 Integration Office. "Many thanks to the tenacious efforts of many organizations, 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 U.S. 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."


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