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F-35 commence Auto GCAS flight tests

The Lockheed Martin F-35 stealth fighter has commenced flight testing, the life saving Automatic Ground Collision Avoidance System (GCAS).

US Air Force 461st Flight Test Squadron recently began test flight missions with the F-35…

An F-35 Lightning II soars over the Mojave Desert on a test sortie. (Courtesy photo by Chad Bellay/Lockheed Martin)


The Lockheed Martin F-35 stealth fighter has commenced flight testing, the life saving Automatic Ground Collision Avoidance System (GCAS).

US Air Force 461st Flight Test Squadron recently began test flight missions with the F-35 aircraft and the Auto GCAS at Edwards Air Force Base, California.

The GCAS will be activated in case of a probable ground collision, and takes control of the aircraft from pilot and return the plane to a safe altitude.

The pilots could become disoriented from a variety of scenarios including target-fixation or Gravity-Induced Loss of Consciousness.

The GCAS system has been already integrated with the F-16 and F-22 fighter jets and has been proven to be effective in real situations.

The Auto GCAS utilizes sensors on the plane, terrain data and other various on-board monitors to determine a probable ground collision. Based on the plane’s trajectory, speed, and lack of input from the pilot, the system then calculates the best way to recover to a safe trajectory.

The addition of Auto GCAS to the F-35 makes it a more capable aircraft, said Lt. Col. Raven LeClair, 461st FLTS test pilot.

“This technology is the stepping stone to increased combat capability via a fully capable combat autopilot that will be able to execute tactical maneuvers to defeat inbound kinetic and non-kinetic threats and maximize lethality through precise weapon employment,” expressed LeClair. “The future F-35 pilot is going to be a lethal battlefield manager with automated tools at his fingertips to ensure survivability and lethality.”

One of the key points of the test flights is to make sure the Auto GCAS is compatible with the F-35’s other onboard computer systems.

Although the system is designed to save lives, Hamilton warned pilots should not be over-reliant on the system.

“The pilot cannot use Auto GCAS as a crutch.  It’s very important they do everything in their power to execute the mission without relying on any safety net to protect them. They’ve got to execute not thinking it’s there, they should execute with that mindset; and then if it saves them, it saves them,” Hamilton asserted.

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