DRDC tests Arctic survival kits for military aircraft with Allies

May 2, 2024


Surviving a plane crash in the Arctic is dependent on having the right equipment and skills to withstand the extreme temperatures and avoid cold weather injuries until rescue. Defence Research and Development Canada (DRDC) has conducted a series of experiments to assess and improve the survival kits, known as Aviation Life Support Equipment (ALSE), and the training provided to Royal Canadian Air Force (RCAF) pilots.

The most recent research trial in this series was held in January 2024 in Resolute Bay, Nunavut, with partner nations from the International Cooperative Engagement Program for Polar Research (ICE-PPR).

A Canadian Armed Forces pilot (right) and a Norweigan  pilot (left) drag a survival kit across an Arctic plain.

DRDC collaborated with international partners in a research trial to assess pilots’ survival kits, clothing, and training.

As members in the ICE-PPR group, Norway, Sweden, Finland, New Zealand and Canada collaborated to study and identify gaps in ALSE kits and cold-weather clothing, as well as to assess fighter pilots’ ability to survive for as long as possible with the gear present in their kits.

The ALSE kits include the life preserver and survival vest (LPSV) worn by the pilot and the seat pack which is stored under the pilot seat of fighter aircrafts such as the F18, F35, and JAS39 for emergency situations.

Four researchers wearing parkas and holding clipboards talk to a Finnish pilot in a temporary shelter on a snow-covered field.

Researchers used surveys to validate the effectiveness of the aviation life support equipment.

The pilots in the research trial used the ALSE kits to prepare temporary shelters, stay warm and take care of basic survival needs. Researchers used health-monitoring equipment to track the pilots’ core temperature and temperature at extremities such as fingers and toes in the Arctic conditions. This data is used to audit the effectiveness of the ALSE kit throughout the trial and ensure the safety of the pilots during the research trial.

A pilot in a snow shelter.

The pilots in the research trial used the survival kits to prepare temporary shelters.

A person shows the temperature monitors on their pinky fingers.

Researchers monitored the pilots’ core temperature and extremity temperature at fingers and toes.

Through the ICE-PPR collaboration, the international research team was able to learn from each other, compare performance assessment of existing clothing, ALSE and pilot training, and recommend best practices.

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