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In worst case scenarios, arctic survival kits help keep Eielson F-35 pilots alive

Published: Dec. 2, 2020 at 4:20 PM AKST
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FAIRBANKS, Alaska (KTVF) - Airmen at Eielson Air Force Base have developed and installed custom arctic survival kits inside the newly arrived F-35 fighter jets.

From the factory, the jets come with emergency supplies in the ejection seat. However, in the extreme cold of Alaska, these kits don’t work.

Staff Sergeant Brian Kline helped develop the kits that were installed into the jets. In 2018 Kline along with three other people began working to build a kit around tools a pilot would need if they were to eject into the arctic and needed to survive. They followed Air Force guidelines and also, “Had a survival expert, an arctic survival expert up here, and he helped us pick and choose which components we would use,” Kline said.

One of the biggest challenges of building the kit was the limited space they had to work with. The entire kit has to fit into a 396 cubic inch space. To get the kit to fit, they designed a custom snow shovel at Eielson, and even had a special sleep shelter built that could be vacuum sealed to fit in the small area. The sleep shelter is made up of poncho pants and a top poncho which, combined with their normal flight suit, will allow them to survive at -50°F.

The kit also comes with a medical module and a survival module. Inside the survival module are fishing line and hooks, trapping supplies and fire starter. There is also a pair of mittens, a water bottle, flares, hand warmers, a knife and other things that a pilot who ejected could use to survive.

“It’s important to have it because we never know. In the unlikely event of an ejection, the pilot needs all these components, including what they are wearing, to sustain survivability in the arctic,” Kline said.

These kits are carefully packed into the seat of the F-35 along with a life raft and radio. Kline says that if a pilot has to eject, they can hopefully survive with the kit until they are able to be rescued.

Kline and the rest of the team that developed the kit even won the Chief of Safety Award from the Air Force for the design. They said so far they have assembled kits for 19 F-35 jets stationed at Eielson.

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