If you’re a bomber of fighter pilot in the U.S. Air Force, having to eject from your aircraft sounds like a worst case scenario, but as those who have done it behind enemy lines will attest, making it to the ground is just the start of your troubles.
Currently, most pilots carry no weapons beyond a survival knife and occasionally a standard issue sidearm in their kits when flying combat operations, and with Air Force operations ongoing in multiple theaters around the world, a mishap that results in a crash or an aircraft downed by enemy fire could result in a lone American pilot left with nothing but a fixed blade knife and their training to stave off combatants ranging from untrained terror cell recruits to well-trained Russian mercenaries until help can arrive.
That possibility was highlighted in February, when a Russian Su-25 Frogfoot was shot down over Syria by rebels. The account of the pilot’s final moments, which included holding off a rebel advance with his Russian Stechkin automatic pistol before taking his own life with a grenade are widely believed to have been exaggerated for the sake of national propaganda, but the reality that pilots may find themselves in dire circumstances remains true none the less — and with U.S. pilots operating in similarly contested airspace with many platforms that remain susceptible to shoulder-fired anti-aircraft weapons, it isn’t impossible that a U.S. pilot could find themselves in similarly tragic circumstances.
Now, American pilots will have a bit more firepower to make use of if the worst were ever to occur: the GAU-5A Aircrew Self Defense Weapon (ASDW) is effectively just a modified M4 carbine, with a FAB Defense AGF-43S Folding Pistol Grip and a Cry Havoc Tactical Quick Release Barrel (or QBR) that allows the weapon to be disassembled and carried in a pilot’s compact standard survival kit. When needed, the Air Force claims the ASDW can be full assembled without any tools in about a minute, and provide accurate fire at targets in excess of 200 meters away.