Tests of a Russian ejection seat modified to meet US requirements have begun, but question marks remain over Russian industry's ability to produce the seat if it was selected for use in a US fighter.

The K-36D-3.5A is a lighter version of the seat produced by the Zvezda design bureau for use in the MAPO MiG-29. According to the US Air Force, earlier tests of the basic K-36D in Russia and the USA demonstrated performance superior to that provided by the current US ejection seats.

The improved seat has a smaller headrest and parachute box to assist over-the-shoulder vision, and accommodates a wider range of aircrew sizes and weights. The K-36D-3.5A will be evaluated at speeds up to 700kt (1,300km/h) at Holloman AFB, New Mexico.

At 26kg (58lb) less than the basic K-36D, the new seat is comparable in weight to the Boeing Improved ACES II seat used in the USAF's Lockheed Martin/Boeing F-22. The Russian seat is being evaluated under a contract with Boeing.

One potential application for the K-36D-3.5A is the Joint Strike Fighter (JSF), but at least one of the design teams - Lockheed Martin - has elected to use Martin Baker's Mk16 lightweight seat.

Talks with Zvezda are said to be foundering on the issue of production availability of the seat.

Source: Flight International