The first of the new arctic survival kits are being installed in U.S. Air Force F-35A Lightning II stealth fighter aircraft fleet stationed at Eielson Air Force Base in Alaska.
Eielson’s F-35As are the first of the Air Force’s fleet to be stationed in an arctic climate, which drove the need for a new survival kit.
The new milestone came 11 months after the USAF 354th Fighter Wing developed a new arctic survival kit for the F-35A in November of 2019. After months of research, development and testing, the design was sent to the 354th Operations Group commander for approval. In April the kit was given the “green light” and aircrew flight equipment (AFE) Airmen got busy building them for the approaching winter.
“Due to the smaller size of the seat we are limited on how many items we can pack in here,” said U.S. Air Force Staff Sgt. Ross Dugger, a 354th Operations Support Squadron AFE craftsman. “Over the years, we’ve worked with [survival, evasion, resistance and escape specialists] to develop this kit and decided what is the most essential equipment needed to survive.”
Airmen from AFE are responsible for packing the kit to fit a specific size in the F-35A before it is ready to go into the jet. The kit consists of survival tools and equipment to help pilots in case of an emergency ejection to include a knife for gathering food, a poncho to stay dry, and flares to signal rescue teams.
After the kit has been packed and fitted to the seat, Airmen assigned to the 354th Maintenance Squadron Aircrew Egress Flight bring the kit to the jet and carefully swap the summer kit with the arctic kit. While doing this, Egress also inspects the seat for discrepancies to ensure the pilot will be safe if they eject.
The arctic survival kit will allow the F-35A pilots to sustain life for a period of at least 24 hours while awaiting rescue in an arctic survival situation. The development of the new kit became necessary as the current arctic survival kit won’t fit in the allotted space under the seat of an F-35A.
The new arctic seat kits will be installed on all of Eielson’s F-35A fleet and could potentially be used by some partner nations who have F-35s in similar climates.