CONTENT PREVIEW
C4iSR: Air

US Air Force wants autonomous air-to-air collision avoidance system on F-35

12 July 2018
The US Air Force wants an autonomous air-to-air collision-avoidance system on the F-35. Source: US Air Force

Key Points

  • The US Air Force wants to put an autonomous air-to-air collision-avoidance system on the F-35
  • The service has a similar technology on the F-16 that pulls unresponsive pilots out of tailspins

The US Air Force (USAF) wants an autonomous air-to-air collision-avoidance system on the Lockheed Martin F-35 Lightning II Joint Strike Fighter (JSF), according to a leading officer.

Air Force Research Laboratory (AFRL) Commander Major General William Cooley said on 10 July that the service wants this autonomous air-to-air collision-avoidance system on both 4th- and 5th-generation aircraft to achieve significant cost savings and save lives. The idea, he said, is that a more integrated collision-avoidance system would prevent air-to-air collisions while aircraft are flying in formation. Gen Cooley added that US allies buying the F-35 are also interested in this system.

The problem with an autonomous air-to-air collision-avoidance system is building pilot trust in the capability. Gen Cooley said onboard sensors such as radar must be used for a pilot to know what is around him or her and potentially avoid other aircraft. This air-to-air capability must also use communication links to get the position of other aircraft in the flight formation or area.

Gen Cooley said coding the software might be the easy part of integrating this air-to-air collision-avoidance system. Building confidence, he said, will be much more difficult.

“Integrating all that and building up the trust and confidence that we actually have sufficient fidelity of the position of all those hazards, such that you can reliably avoid collision, that is a pretty heavy lift,” Gen Cooley told reporters after a Mitchell Institute for Aerospace Studies event on Capitol Hill, Washington, DC.

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