While collisions involving fighter jets are rare, they do occur nonetheless. In an effort to prevent mid-air collisions of the U.S. military’s most advanced fighter jet, Lockheed Martin has developed new software.
According to the Pentagon’s F-35 Joint Program Office, the software works in a similar manner as anti-collision systems used in automobiles. When the software detects an obstruction, it will take evasive action to avoid it. The software, known as Automatic Ground Collision Avoidance System (Auto-GCAS), will automatically perform a recovery maneuver if the F-35’s path contains land or obstruction.
The F-35 already has an anti-collision system. However, this system only alerts the pilot to the danger. It does not take evasive action automatically to avoid collision. Therefore, the F-35’s existing anti-collision system only works if the pilot is conscious and able to hear and see their surroundings. If the pilot is unconscious, the system won’t protect him or her from collision.
The Auto-GCAS overcomes this challenge by taking evasive maneuver automatically when an obstruction is detected. If the pilot is about to crash into land, for instance, it takes control of the fighter jet to prevent collision. As a result, it will protect pilots from collision even if the pilot is unconscious or otherwise unable to take manual evasive action.
The software isn’t technically new, as Lockheed Martin used it a fleet of F-16s in 2014. According to the aerospace and defense company, it saved the lives of more than a half-dozen pilots as well as six fighter jets.
“Lockheed Martin originally developed this system in partnership with the Air Force Research Laboratory and NASA,” said Lockheed Martin Executive Vice President Jeff Babione. “We’re proud to support the Department of Defense and our international customers to accelerate the integration of this potential life-saving technology on the F-35.”
Lockheed Martin says it hopes to implement the Auto-GCAS software in the U.S. military’s F-35 fleet by 2019. Originally, the company had planned to roll out the software by 2024. However, it has since taken a more optimistic approach towards its implementation, with plans to roll out the Auto-GCAS five years sooner.
With its first flight on December 2006, the F-35 has become a key asset of the U.S. military. This fifth-generation fighter jet is capable of performing multiple roles, including ground attack, air superiority, escort and more.