ASEK -- Aircrew Survival Egress Knife

The Aircrew Survival Egress Knife (ASEK) was fielded in April 2004 to enable U.S. Army Aviation air crews to better prepare for survival scenarios. ASEK replaced the aviation survival knife procured in the 1960s for Army aviators.

U.S. Army ASEK -- Aircrew Survival Egress Knife
U.S. Army ASEK -- Aircrew Survival Egress Knife.

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ASEK Aircrew Survival Egress Knife

Aircrew Survival Egress Knife (ASEK) system. The unique calf-mounted leg sheath has a removable mount system to allow inverted wear on the Aircrew Survival Vest, or can clip to MOLLE attachment points.
Aircrew Survival Egress Knife (ASEK) system. The unique calf-mounted leg sheath has a removable mount system to allow inverted wear on the Aircrew Survival Vest, or can clip to MOLLE Pouch Attachment Ladder System (PALS) attachment points.

The Aircrew Survival Egress Knife (ASEK) is used by U.S. Army Aviation crews to assist in safely exiting an aircraft, including cutting seatbelts or other restraints. After successful egress, ASEK serves as a survival tool to prepare food and shelter and as a defensive weapon.

The Aircrew Survival Egress Knife (ASEK) was developed specifically for aviators by the Army's Directorate of Combat Development at the Army Aviation Center, Fort Rucker, AL. ASEK is part of the Air Warrior system, which aims to improve the life-support equipment pilots and crew members wear and carry with them when flying in training or combat missions. ASEK will be issued to every aircrew member who gets a survival vest.

Air Force Survival Knife from the 1960s

The ASEK replaces the aviation survival knife procured in the 1960s for aviators flying fixed-wing aircraft. The old knife was designed by the Air Force using 1940s technology and had problems that motivated development of ASEK. The problems included:

  • No specific egress tool features
  • Handle and sheath that made from leather, which stretches and warps with exposure over time.
  • Poor hammering capabilities
  • Saw-teeth on its back edge not sufficient for cutting wood or aircraft aluminum
  • Blade does not have a serrated portion; it cannot safely cut restraints and tethers
  • Sharpening stone easily breaks on impact.
  • Rust-resistant blade coating is not as durable as the more modern coatings

ASEK Aircrew Survival Egress Knife Capabilities

ASEK's capabilities include hammering and sawing a 36-inch cut in aircraft aluminum without resharpening. It also has a serrated portion to easily cut rope, a crossguard to keep hands from slipping from the handle onto the blade, holes in the handle to lash the knife to a pole and create a spear, a screwdriver, an electrically insulated handle and better durability.

A separate blade, called a strapcutter, safely catches and cuts all current and developmental seatbelt straps or restraint tethers with one hand. It also contains a crushed diamond disk for precision sharpening. A tip at the end of the knife's handle can score aircrafts' Plexiglas windows so they can be broken with one hand. The knife and strapcutter can be attached to aviators' survival vests or to their legs. The knife is operable with one hand.

Procurement of the ASEK Aircrew Survival Egress Knife

The requirements specification was given to several different commercial companies that competed to produce the knife. The Ontario Knife Co. won the competition, and is the current vendor. Ontario makes the ASEK available commercially through dealers such as Amazon.com at this link.

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Aircrew Survival Egress Knife (ASEK) on Army aviators leg

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