USAF begins test flights with F-35 and Auto GCAS technology

19 November 2018 (Last Updated November 19th, 2018 11:43)

The US Air Force’s (USAF) 461st Flight Test Squadron has commenced test flight missions to assess the automatic ground collision avoidance system (Auto GCAS) with the F-35 Lightning II joint strike fighter aircraft.

USAF begins test flights with F-35 and Auto GCAS technology
An F-35 Lightning II from the 461st Flight Test Squadron on a test sortie. Credit: Chad Bellay.

The US Air Force’s (USAF) 461st Flight Test Squadron has commenced test flight missions to assess the automatic ground collision avoidance system (Auto GCAS) with the F-35 Lightning II joint strike fighter aircraft.

The mission is being carried out at the USAF’s Edwards Air Force Base (AFB) in California and will test the ability of the technology to prevent ground collisions when pilots get disoriented due to scenarios such as target-fixation or gravity-induced loss of consciousness.

Under such scenarios, the Auto GCAS would activate, take control from the pilot and return the aircraft to a safe altitude.

“The future F-35 pilot is going to be a lethal battlefield manager with automated tools at his fingertips to ensure survivability and lethality.”

The system uses sensors on the aircraft, terrain data and other different onboard monitors to identify an event related to a possible ground collision. It then uses the jet’s trajectory, speed and lack of input from the pilot to determine the best possible way to ensure a safe aircraft trajectory.

USAF 461st Flight Test Squadron test pilot lieutenant colonel Raven LeClair said: “This technology is the stepping stone to increased combat capability via a fully capable combat autopilot that will be able to execute tactical manoeuvres to defeat inbound kinetic and non-kinetic threats and maximise lethality through precise weapon employment.

“The future F-35 pilot is going to be a lethal battlefield manager with automated tools at his fingertips to ensure survivability and lethality.”

The test flights are primarily conducted to ensure that the Auto GCAS is compatible with the other computer systems installed onboard the F-35 fighter jets.