U.S. Air Force Survival Handbook

U.S. Air Force Survival Handbook

by United States Air Force


$12.68 $17.95 Save 29% Current price is $12.68, Original price is $17.95. You Save 29%.


Written for use in formal United States Air Force survival training courses, the U.S. Air Force Survival Handbook iis the bible for pilots who want to stay alive—no matter what. Assuming, as the Air Force does, that flight personnel may be faced at any time with a bailout or crash landing in hostile territory without supplies, the advice here is superlatively practical, but also surprisingly readable and interesting. Detailing specific survival threats at sea, in the tropics, in the desert, in Arctic conditions, and the psychological perils of imprisonment and torture, this handbook is replete with fascinating and useful (if unsettling) information. Precisely written, profusely illustrated, and completely authoritative, this is an essential book for anyone—soldier or civilian—looking for knowledge that could prove to be the difference between life and death in a dangerous situation.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9781602392458
Publisher: Skyhorse
Publication date: 04/17/2008
Series: US Army Survival Series
Pages: 592
Product dimensions: 8.50(w) x 11.00(h) x 8.40(d)

About the Author

The United States Air Force

is headquartered at the Pentagon in Arlington, Virginia, and also authors the U.S.
Air Force Survival Handbook.

Read an Excerpt



1-1. Introduction. An ejection sequence, a bailout, or crash landing ends one mission for the crew but starts another — to successfully return from a survival situation. Are they prepared? Can they handle the new mission, not knowing what it entails? Unfortunately, many aircrew members are not fully aware of their new mission or are not fully prepared to carry it out. All instructors teaching aircrew survival must prepare the aircrew member to face and successfully complete this new mission. (Figure 1-1 shows situations a member might encounter.)

1-2. Aircrew Mission. The moment an aircrew member leaves the aircraft and encounters a survival situation, the assigned mission is to: "return to friendly control without giving aid or comfort to the enemy, to return early and in good physical and mental condition."

a. On first impressions, "friendly control" seems to relate to a combat situation. Even in peacetime, however, the environment may be quite hostile. Imagine parachuting into the arctic when it's minus 40°F. Would an aircrew member consider this "friendly?" No. If the aircraft is forced to crash-land in the desert where temperatures may soar above 120°F, would this be agreeable? Hardly. The possibilities for encountering hostile conditions affecting human survival are endless. Crewmembers who egress an aircraft may confront situations difficult to endure.

b. The second segment of the mission, "without giving aid or comfort to the enemy," is directly related to a combat environment. This part of the mission may be most effectively fulfilled by following the moral guide — the Code of Conduct. Remember, however, that the Code of Conduct is useful to a survivor at all times and in all situations. Moral obligations apply to the peacetime situation as well as to the wartime situation.

c. The final phase of the mission is "to return early and in good physical and mental condition." A key factor in successful completion of this part of the mission may be the will to survive. This will is present, in varying degrees, in all human beings. Although successful survival is based on many factors, those who maintain this important attribute will increase their chance of success.

1-3. Goals. Categorizing this mission into organizational components, the three goals or duties of a survivor are to maintain life, maintain honor, and return. Survival training instructors and formal survival training courses provide training in the skills, knowledge, and attitudes necessary for an aircrew member to successfully perform the fundamental survival duties shown in figure 1-2.

1-4. Survival. Surviving is extremely stressful and difficult. The survivor may be constantly faced with hazardous and difficult situations. The stresses, hardships, and hazards (typical of a survival episode) are caused by the cumulative effects of existing conditions. (See chapter 2 pertaining to conditions affecting survival.) Maintaining life and honor and returning, regardless of the conditions, may make surviving difficult or unpleasant. The survivor's mission forms the basis for identifying and organizing the major needs of a survivor. (See survivor's needs in chapter 3.)

1-5. Decisions. The decisions survivors make and the actions taken in order to survive determine their prognosis for surviving.

1-6. Elements. The three primary elements of the survivor's mission are: the conditions affecting survival, the survivor's needs, and the means for surviving.



2-1. Introduction. Five basic conditions affect every survival situation (figure 2-1). These conditions may vary in importance or degree of influence from one situation to another and from individual to individual. At the onset, these conditions can be considered to be neutral — being neither for nor against the survivor, and should be looked upon as neither an advantage nor a disadvantage. The aircrew member may succumb to their effects — or use them to best advantage. These conditions exist in each survival episode, and they will have great bearing on the survivor's every need, decision, and action.

2-2. Environmental Conditions. Climate, terrain, and life forms are the basic components of all environments. These components can present special problems for the survivor. Each component can be used to the survivor's advantage. Knowledge of these conditions may very well contribute to the success of the survival mission.

a. Climate. Temperature, moisture, and wind are the basic climatic elements. Extreme cold or hot temperatures, complicated by moisture (rain, humidity, dew, snow, etc.) or lack of moisture, and the possibility of wind, may have a life threatening impact on the survivor's needs, decisions, and actions. The primary concern, resulting from the effects of climate, is the need for personal protection. Climatic conditions also have a significant impact on other aspects of survival (for example, the availability of water and food, the need and ability to travel, recovery capabilities, physical and psychological problems, etc.) (figure 2-2).

b. Terrain. Mountains, prairies, hills, and lowlands, are only a few examples of the infinite variety of land forms which describe "terrain." Each of the land forms have a different effect on a survivor's needs, decisions, and actions. A survivor may find a combination of several terrain forms in a given situation. The existing terrain will affect the survivor's needs and activities in such areas as travel, recovery, sustenance, and, to a lesser extent, personal protection. Depending on its form, terrain may afford security and concealment for an evader; cause travel to be easy or difficult; provide protection from cold, heat, moisture, wind, or nuclear, biological, chemical (NBC) conditions; or make surviving a seemingly impossible task (figure 2-3).

c. Life Forms. For survival and survival training purposes, there are two basic life forms — plant life and animal life (other than human). NOTE: The special relationship and effects of people on the survival episode are covered separately. Geographic areas are often identified in terms of the abundance of life (or lack thereof). For example, the barren arctic or desert, primary (or secondary) forests, the tropical rain forest, the polar ice cap, etc., all produce images regarding the quantities of life forms. These examples can have special meaning not only in terms of the hazards or needs they create, but also in how a survivor can use available life forms (figure 2-4).

(1) Plant Life. There are hundreds of thousands of different types and species of plant life. In some instances, geographic areas are identified by the dominant types of plant life within that area. Examples of this are savannas, tundra, deciduous forests, etc. Some species of plant life can be used advantageously by a survivor — if not for the food or the water, then for improvising camouflage, shelter, or providing for other needs.

(2) Animal Life. Reptiles, amphibians, birds, fish, insects, and mammals are life forms which directly affect a survivor. These creatures affect the survivor by posing hazards (which must be taken into consideration), or by satisfying needs.

2-3. The Survivor's Condition. The survivor's condition and the influence it has in each survival episode is often overlooked. The primary factors which constitute the survivor's condition can best be described by the four categories shown in figure 2-5. Aircrew members must prepare themselves in each of these areas before each mission, and be in a state of "constant readiness" for the possibility of a "survival mission." Crewmembers must be aware of the role a survivor's condition plays both before and during the survival episode.

a. Physical. The physical condition and the fitness level of the survivor are major factors affecting survivability. Aircrew members who are physically fit will be better prepared to face survival episodes than those who are not. Further, a survivor's physical condition (injured or uninjured) during the initial phase of a survival episode will be a direct result of circumstances surrounding the ejection, bailout, parachute landing, or crash landing. In short, high levels of physical fitness and good post-egress physical condition will enhance a survivor's ability to cope with such diverse variables as: (1) temperature extremes, (2) rest or lack of it, (3) water availability, (4) food availability, and (5) extended survival episodes. In the last instance, physical weakness may increase as a result of nutritional deficiencies, disease, etc.

b. Psychological. Survivors' psychological state greatly influences their ability to successfully return from a survival situation.

(1) Psychological effectiveness in a survival episode (including captivity) results from effectively coping with the following factors: (a) Initial shock - Finding oneself in a survival situation following the stress of ejection, bailout, or crash landing.

(b) Pain - Naturally occurring or induced by coercive manipulation.

(c) Hunger - Naturally occurring or induced by coercive manipulation.

(d) Thirst - Naturally occurring or induced by coercive manipulation.

(e) Cold or Heat - Naturally occurring or induced by coercive manipulation.

(f) Frustration - Naturally occurring or induced by coercive manipulation.

(g) Fatigue (including Sleep Deprivation). - Naturally occurring or induced by coercive manipulation.

(h) Isolation - Includes forced (captivity) and the extended duration of any episode.

(i) Insecurity - Induced by anxiety and self-doubts.

(j) Loss of self-esteem - Most often induced by coercive manipulation.

(k) Loss of self-determination - Most often induced by coercive manipulation.

(l) Depression - Mental "lows."

(2) A survivor may experience emotional reactions during a survival episode due to the previously stated factors, previous (life) experiences (including training) and the survivor's psychological tendencies. Emotional reactions commonly occurring in survival (including captivity) situations are:

(a) Boredom - sometimes combined with loneliness.

(b) Loneliness.

(c) Impatience.

(d) Dependency.

(e) Humiliation.

(f) Resentment.

(g) Anger - sometimes included as a subelement of hate.

(h) Hate.

(i) Anxiety.

(j) Fear - often included as a part of panic or anxiety.

(k) Panic.

(3) Psychologically survival episodes may be divided into "crisis" phases and "coping" phases. The initial crisis period will occur at the onset of the survival situation. During this initial period, "thinking" as well as "emotional control" may be disorganized. Judgment is impaired, and behavior may be irrational (possibly to the point of panic). Once the initial crisis is under control, the coping phase begins and the survivor is able to respond positively to the situation. Crisis periods may well recur, especially during extended situations (captivity). A survivor must strive to control if avoidance is impossible.

(4) The most important psychological tool that will affect the outcome of a survival situation is the will to survive. Without it, the survivor is surely doomed to failure — a strong will is the best assurance of survival.

c. Material. At the beginning of a survival episode, the clothing and equipment in the aircrew member's possession, the contents of available survival kits, and salvageable resources from the parachute or aircraft are the sum total of the survivor's material assets. Adequate premission preparations are required (must be stressed during training). Once the survival episode has started, special attention must be given to the care, use, and storage of all materials to ensure they continue to be serviceable and available. Items of clothing and equipment should be selectively augmented with improvised items.

(1) Clothing appropriate to anticipated environmental conditions (on the ground) should be worn or carried as aircraft space and mission permit.

(2) The equipment available to a survivor affects all decisions, needs, and actions. The survivor's ability to improvise may provide ways to meet some needs.

d. Legal and Moral Obligations. A survivor has both legal and moral obligations or responsibilities. Whether in peacetime or combat, the survivor's responsibilities as a member of the military service continues. Legal obligations are expressly identified in the Geneva Conventions, Uniform Code of Military Justice (UCMJ), and Air Force directives and policies. Moral obligations are expressed in the Code of Conduct. (See figure 2-6.)

(1) Other responsibilities influence behavior during survival episodes and influence the will to survive. Examples include feelings of obligation or responsibilities to family, self, and(or) spiritual beliefs.

(2) A survivor's individual perception of responsibilities influence survival needs, and affect the psychological state of the individual both during and after the survival episode. These perceptions will be reconciled either consciously through rational thought or subconsciously through attitude changes. Training specifically structured to foster and maintain positive attitudes provides a key asset to survival.

2-4. Duration — The Time Condition. The duration of the survival episode has a major effect upon the aircrew member's needs. Every decision and action will be driven in part by an assessment of when recovery or return is probable. Air superiority, rescue capabilities, the distances involved, climatic conditions, the ability to locate the survivor, or captivity are major factors which directly influence the duration (time condition) of the survival episode. A survivor can never be certain that rescue is imminent.

2-5. Sociopolitical Condition. The people a survivor contacts, their social customs, cultural heritage, and political attitudes will affect the survivor's status. Warfare is one type of sociopolitical condition, and people of different cultures are another. Due to these sociopolitical differences, the interpersonal relationship between the survivor and any people with whom contact is established is crucial to surviving. To a survivor, the attitude of the people contacted will be friendly, hostile, or unknown.

a. Friendly People. The survivor who comes into contact with friendly people, or at least those willing (to some degree) to provide aid, is indeed fortunate. Immediate return to home, family, or home station, however, may be delayed. When in direct association with even the friendliest of people, it is essential to maintain their friendship. These people may be of a completely different culture in which a commonplace American habit may be a gross and serious insult. In other instances, the friendly people may be active insurgents in their country and constantly in fear of discovery. Every survivor action, in these instances, must be appropriate and acceptable to ensure continued assistance.

b. Hostile People. A state of war need not exist for a survivor to encounter hostility in people. With few exceptions, any contact with hostile people must be avoided. If captured, regardless of the political or social reasons, the survivor must make all efforts to adhere to the Code of Conduct and the legal obligations of the UCMJ, the Geneva Conventions, and USAF policy.

c. Unknown People. The survivor should consider all factors before contacting unknown people. Some primitive cultures and closed societies still exist in which outsiders are considered a threat. In other areas of the world, differing political and social attitudes can place a survivor "at risk" in contacting unknown people.

2-6. Induced Conditions. Any form of warlike activity results in "induced conditions." Three comparatively new induced conditions may occur during combat operations. Nuclear warfare and the resultant residual radiation, biological warfare, and chemical warfare (NBC) create life-threatening conditions from which a survivor needs immediate protection. The longevity of NBC conditions further complicates a survivor's other needs, decisions, and actions (figure 2-7).


Excerpted from "U.S. Air Force Survival Handbook"
by .
Copyright © 2017 Skyhorse Publishing.
Excerpted by permission of Skyhorse Publishing.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.

Table of Contents

Part One — The Elements of Surviving,
Chapter 1 — Mission,
Chapter 2 — Conditions Affecting Survival,
Chapter 3 - The Survivor's Needs,
Part Two — Psychological Aspects of Survival,
Chapter 4 — Contributing Factors,
Chapter 5 — Emotional Reactions,
Chapter 6 — The Will to Survive,
Part Three — Basic Survival Medicine,
Chapter 7 — Survival Medicine,
Chapter 8 - PW Medicine,
Part Four — Facts and Conditions Affecting a Survivor,
Chapter 10 — Geographic Principles,
Chapter 11 — Environmental Characteristics,
Chapter 12 — Local People,
Part Five — Personal Protection,
Chapter 13 — Proper Body Temperature,
Chapter 14 — Clothing,
Chapter 15 — Shelter,
Chapter 16 — Firecraft,
Chapter 17 — Equipment,
Part Six — Sustenance,
Chapter 18 —Food,
Chapter 19 — Water,
Part Seven — Travel,
Chapter 20 — Land Navigation,
Chapter 21 — Land Travel,
Chapter 22 — Rough Land Travel and Evacuation Techniques,
Chapter 23 — Water Travel,
Part Eight — Signaling and Recovery,
Chapter 24 — Signaling,
Chapter 25 — Recovery Principles,
Part Nine — Evasion,
Chapter 26 — Legal and Moral Obligations,
Chapter 27 — Factors of Successful Evasion,
Chapter 28 — Camouflage,
Part Ten — Induced Conditions — Nuclear, Biological, and Chemical (NBC),
Chapter 29 — Nuclear Conditions,
Chapter 30 — Biological Conditions,
Chapter 31 — Chemical Conditions,

Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

See All Customer Reviews

U.S. Air Force Survival Handbook 0 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 1 reviews.
AppGator More than 1 year ago
Lots of information and the section on fire starting is very informative. Most of the book dealing with evasion and escape may not be relevant but this book is a valuable reference. It's large, so the electronic version is good for on trail, but I aways recommend memorizing and practice - it's lighter and more reliable.