The United States Air Force (USAF) F-22 Raptor’s planned evolution includes an auto recovery system, called the Auto Ground Collision Avoidance System (AGCAS). This system allows the aircraft to recover to level flight, automatically, if the pilot is momentarily incapacitated.
Flight Global reported last week, after a USAF F-22 crashed in Alaska, ‘To preserve its dwindling fighter inventory, the USAF plans to upgrade all three fly-by-wire types – F-22, F-35 and F-16 – with an automatic ground collision avoidance system (auto-GCAS). The system is designed to take control of the aircraft if the pilot approaches a non-recoverable condition’.
This was also disclosed by Major James “Bean” Akerly, the chief of F-22 Requirements of the Air Combat Command of the USAF at the London Fighter Conference last month. According to him, Increment 3.2 software development of the Raptor would include an Auto Ground Collision Avoidance System (AGCAS). But the system seems scheduled for deployment in 2016.
Flight Global had reported last year after an F-22 crashed in March 2009, killing Lockheed Martin test pilot, David Cooley, that the USAF had decided ‘against funding a readily available technology that is supposed to prevent crashes like the one that recently killed a Lockheed Martin test pilot flying an F-22 Raptor’.
While it is not clear if such a system could have prevented the crash of the aircraft last Tuesday in Alaska and possibly saved the life of pilot Captain Jeffrey Haney, an AGCAS works by tracking ‘the aircraft’s position, speed and altitude against a digital terrain map of the Earth. It intervenes when the pilot becomes disoriented, or suffers a G-induced loss of consciousness (G-LOC). If the system calculates the aircraft is within 1.5sec of approaching a point of no return, it takes control and levels the aircraft,’ according to Flight Global.
Sources associated with the F-22 program told StratPost that the traditional distaste of fighter pilots for the idea of ceding control of their aircraft, the high levels of training of USAF fighter pilots, as well as the absence of a risk similar to that of Soviet pilots defecting during the Cold War, played a part in keeping such a system absent in the F-22, as well as the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter (JSF) and F-16, so far.