ASEK Survival knife

The ASEK survival knife is the knife currently used by the US Army Air Force and it’s basically a survival knife for the 21st century. It was firstly introduced in 2003 and it is currently manufactured by the Ontario Knife Company. Being a member of Aircrew is not an easy job and sometimes you are facing some very unpleasant situations, especially when your aircraft lands into hostile territory and your survival only depends on the set of skills you acquired and your gear.

Enters the ASEK survival knife, the tool that makes a world of difference in a real-life plane crash scenario.

The acronym ASEK stands for Aircrew Survival Egress Knife and as the name suggests, it’s an updated version of the World War 2 era survival knife.

The old version pictured above was plagued with a series of problems, like the obsolete leather handle and sheath deteriorating over time, the ineffective sharpening stone and even its poor resistance to corrosion.

The US Army Aviation Branch had very strict requirements about the new ASEK knife. The ASEK survival knife had to be able to cut through the aircraft aluminum fuselage and windows (those used in the military aircraft are made of acrylic, not glass), to be able to withstand heavy abuse i.e. hammering, to have a hand guard, to be light weight and durable, even to have spear- holes; those are used for tying the knife to a stick and to be used as a spear.

The US Army also desired the ASEK knife to have an electrically insulated handle and that was achieved by the Ontario Company by using an insulating rubber coating . With this innovation, when using the ASEK, one is perfectly capable to cut through live wire without any trouble. Other improvements from the older version include the sheath of the ASEK knife which contains a dedicated tool for cutting seat belts and a sharpening disk, diamond-impregnated, which is more efficient than a traditional sharpening stone.

The ASEK knife pictured above was selected after intensive testing and this is the only survival knife approved by the PM Soldier and Natick Research Labs that meets the criteria defined by the US Army.

The Ontario Knife Company also designed a dedicated multi-purpose tool(included in the package) for cutting through seat belts and safety harness, among other things.

The Cutter

The cutter is made from anodized aluminum and features removable blades. It includes a ceramic honing stick that works like a dream when it comes to create razor sharp blades. The tool has a flat head that can be used as a screwdriver, which comes handy in various situations and it’s located behind the knife in the KIDEX sheet, so it’s very easy to deploy, thanks to its ergonomic design.

The Sheath

The sheath of the ASEK survival knife is made from a fire retardant material with some unique properties, actually a composite of nylon with KIDEX insertions. It comes in OD Green color and has a leg-strap system for holding the knife securely, a very important feature because aircrew usually don’t wear belts on their flight suits. For the civilian version of the ASEK knife, the sheath comes with a belt carry option

The knife can be attached to a vest or other type of load bearing equipment, thanks to its MOLLE webbing on the back of the sheath. You can also carry it on the chest, calf or on your waist. The sheath includes dual retention snaps for keeping your knife secured in the unfortunate event of a crash landing.

As you can see, thanks to intelligent design, the knife will be within your hands reach but out of the way during flight.

As I already told you, the ergonomic handle is electrically insulated and its butt cap is designed in an octagonal shape, to be used as a hammer and also for breaking glass with the pommel. The handle is one-piece molded over the knife’s guard and has spear holes. It is made of high strength aluminum and it was designed to withstand high temperatures without melting or shattering. The ASEK survival knife has a comfortable feel when held, it fits perfectly in your hand and thanks to its rubber coating, it provides tons of grip in any conditions.

As an additional security option, a lanyard hole was included in the handle, a must-have feature in a ASEK survival knife.

The blade of the knife is made of 1095 carbon steel which has a hardness rating of Rockwell 50-54, meaning that it’s not a brittle blade, but a strong blade which keeps its edge very well and it’s fairly easy to sharpen. The blade is protected against corrosion by a black coating that is made of zinc phosphate which inhibits rust. Also, the black finish of the blade is a must have in tactical situations.

Blade Length

The blade length is 5 inches and it has 1’’ in width, while the overall length of the knife is 10.25’’. It has a flat grind and saw teeth on the spine, which are used to cut through aluminum fuselage but also comes handy when you have to cut rope or vegetation. The lower half of the blade is serrated. The tip is excellent for drilling and piercing.

The ASEK survival knife is a versatile tool to be used in any imaginable scenario. Obviously, there are critics who complain, for example, about the serrations on the blade, which are not traditionally found on survival knives; but I think they are misunderstanding some of the aspects of military survival.


The ASEK survival knife is primarily a military knife, not your regular wilderness survival blade. There are different aspects when it comes to military, for example all Aircrew have an additional full-option survival kit, beside the knife, so the ASEK survival knife is basically a tool to egress in most of the situations; it’s not bushcraft, it’s survival.

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