The Automatic Ground Collision Avoidance System is designed to prevent flights from hitting terrain by executing an automatic recovery maneuver when terrain impact is imminent. The system continuously compares trajectory prediction, terrain profile, and elevation data.
The Automatic Ground-Collision Avoidance System (Auto-GCAS) has been in development by the US Air Force, NASA, and Lockheed Martin since the 1980s, and it went operational in October. It’s essentially a software upgrade, requiring some modifications to the airplane’s digital flight-control computer and advanced data-transfer equipment.
Once installed, the computer monitors altitude, attitude, and speed, and when these parameters show that a crash is imminent, it triggers an autopilot-commanded maneuver to return to safe flight. Last year, the USAF said the system was ready to become operational and would be installed in the entire F-16 fleet, with the F-22 and F-35 next in line for the upgrade.