Sunday, March 20, 2011

AFRL-NASA ACAT Team Wins Av Week Laureate Award

The U.S. Air Force Research Laboratory's Automatic Collision Avoidance Technology Fighter Risk Reduction Program (ACAT/FRRP) team, which includes NASA's Dryden Flight Research Center, has won an Aviation Week & Space Technology magazine Laureate Award for its successful development and flight test of an Automatic Ground Collision Avoidance System.

The award was announced March 8 during the magazine's 54th Annual Laureate Awards ceremony in Washington, DC.

NASA Dryden led the project's integrated test team, which was responsible for the technical content of the project's test and evaluation, maintenance of the Air Force's F-16D test aircraft, project management and engineering services, and provision of the project's chief pilot.

"It is a tremendous honor to be recognized by Aviation Week this way," said Dryden's Mark Skoog, the team's project manager. "Speaking for the NASA and Air Force Flight Test Center team, we were proud to contribute to this team effort by ironing out the system requirements with Air Combat Command, bringing improved digital data to the system, acquiring and preparing the test jet, as well as conducting and evaluating the thrilling flight test effort," Skoog said.

The Automatic Ground Collision Avoidance System, or Auto GCAS, is a lifesaving aircraft technology that incorporates onboard digital terrain mapping data, a robust terrain scan pattern, and "time to avoid impact" algorithms to predict impending ground collisions and, at the last moment, execute avoidance maneuvers. The result is a system that automatically prevents controlled flight into terrain, the leading cause of all fighter aircraft mishaps.

By flight-testing the Auto GCAS system across the entire F-16 flight envelope and in all terrain conditions, including such extremes as flying only 100 feet above ground level in canyons and over mountainous terrain, the ACAT/FRRP team successfully proved the maturity of this technology, its ability to be nuisance-free and ready for transition to operational fighter aircraft.

As a direct result of the ACAT/FRRP team efforts and success, Auto GCAS is now transitioning to operational use in the Air Force's F-16 and F-22 aircraft, as well as in the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter.

Auto GCAS offers unprecedented payoffs in terms of operator safety and aircraft retention, according to Air Force Research Laboratory officials. They believe the 20-year projected payoff from implementation of Auto GCAS will result in savings of tens of billions of dollars and hundreds of lives and fighter aircraft.

The ACAT/FRRP team is composed of AFRL, Lockheed Martin, NASA's Dryden Flight Research Center, the Air Force Flight Test Center, and the Office of the Secretary of Defense Personnel and Readiness.

The annual Aviation Week Laureate Awards recognize extraordinary individuals and teams for their exploration, innovation and vision in the aerospace and defense industry.

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