The U.S. Air Force is considering whether to adopt United Technologies‘ ACES 5 ejection seat for the F-35 fighter jet as a replacement for the Martin-Baker US16E version, Defense News reported Monday.
Air Force Lt. Gen. Arnold Bunch, the service branch’s lead uniformed acquisition officer, told Defense News the service branch sent a letter to the F-35 Joint Program Office to learn the potential costs and challenges of switching ejection seats, according to the report by Aaron Mehta.
“We believe it is prudent to look at what it would take to qualify the ACES 5 seat as a potential risk mitigation step if additional things happen as we go through the testing of the Martin-Baker seat,” Bunch said.
“We have to have a seat that covers the whole envelope, all the demographics, from lightweight pilots to people who are [heavier], to be able to cover and allow them to be able to get out of the aircraft that we’re going to ask them to operate,” he added.
The F-35’s current ejection seats raised concerns inside the Air Force on safety when the branch learned that pilots weighed under 136 pounds were at a higher risk of injuries during ejection, Mehta noted.