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C4iSR: Air

Lockheed Martin soon implementing Auto-GCAS on F-35

27 June 2018
Lockheed Martin is implementing an Auto-GCAS system on the F-35 as part of Block 3F modernisation. Source: US Air Force

Key Points

  • Lockheed Martin in 2019 will implement an Auto-GCAS system on the F-35
  • This can assume temporary control and pull out of a crash if a pilot is unresponsive

Lockheed Martin will soon implement on its F-35 Lightning II Joint Strike Fighter (JSF) an Automatic Ground Collision Avoidance System (Auto-GCAS) that allows the aircraft to take control and avoid crashing, according to a key executive.

Jeff Babione, company vice-president and general manager of advanced development programmes, said on 26 June that Auto-GCAS was recently installed on the General Dynamics F-16 Fighting Falcon and, in the last year or two, has saved the lives of five or six pilots. Auto-GCAS is expected to enter the F-35 fleet in 2019, according to the Pentagon’s Joint Program Office (JPO), which did not respond to a request for comment.

Auto-GCAS is designed to prevent controlled flight-into-terrain mishaps by executing an automatic recovery manoeuvre when impact with the ground is imminent. It does this through a predicted trajectory, based on Global Positioning System (GPS) positioning and system altitude, which is compared with an onboard Digital Terrain Database.

Once the programme recognises the aircraft is likely to crash, it prompts the pilot to evade either a ground crash or a controlled flight-into-terrain situation. If no action is taken, Auto-GCAS assumes temporary control, engaging an autopilot manoeuvre to roll the aircraft upright and initiate a 5-G pull, diverting the aircraft and pilot out of harm’s way before returning aircraft control to the pilot.

F-35s are currently equipped with an earlier version of the software that provides pilots with a Manual Ground Collision Avoidance System (MGCAS). With this system, a pilot must be able to hear, see, process, and heed the MGCAS warning, and manually fly the aircraft away from the ground.

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