We tried it: ASEK survival knife

Although the Aircrew Survival Egress Knife, or ASEK, wasn’t the first fixed blade knife (which was a SOG Seal Pup) I bought in the Army, it is the first knife I choose for everything from day-to-day driving to my kids’ scout camping and outdoor adventuring back in my family’s rural properties.

While I grew up in the country, literally across the street from a family cattle pasture, it wasn’t until I enrolled in the University of Houston’s ROTC courses that I was exposed to purpose-built, heavy duty knives.

The author with his ASEK strapped to his calf his rural property in 2008.

While the Marines have their historical connection with KA-BAR knives, the utility of a fixed blade utility knife is often undervalued in the civilian population, to say the least.

I had invested in a folding SOG Trident (Amazon link) that I could carry everywhere either in my pocket or in the MOLLE on my Interceptor Body Armor System when going outside the wire. Thankfully I carried that folding knife everywhere, as I had to pry my way through a horribly designed door in the Maysan Province in 2008. I must have left my ASEK stashed with my ruck sack — D’oh!

My introduction to the ASEK was when I researching the aviator-specific gear the Army was fielding to rotary wing aircraft pilots, crew chiefs and flight engineers. Being a public affairs operator, I was issued my rifle — and later a carbine — and camera gear. But no utility knife.

Why choose this knife system?

It is purpose-designed to get you through an aircraft-grade aluminum aircraft body.
So if you’re flying Black Hawk Air all the time, it’s simply the best knife to get you out of a horrible situation.

Having been trained in the HUMVEE rollover simulator in Kuwait, I immediately recognized the usefulness of the ASEK. With it I’d have two seat belt cutters, a decade ago the other was a Benchmade cutter, but today I suggest the Gerber strap cutter. My family’s daily driver vehicles each have a seat belt cutter in the console.

Survival, not bushcraft

The ASEK readily fits the role of a utility knife, but it also has the specific role of being a purpose-built survival knife — not a bushcraft knife.

A bushcraft knife is built for intentionally going into the woods to build a shelter. Additionally, a bushcraft knife usually has non-serrated blade, and a wide spine for woodwork or batoning your way through a log.

The ASEK has serrations on the cutting blade. Many bushcrafters will avoid all serrated knives. Additionally, the back of the ASEK blade has saw teeth. The saw teeth are designed for cutting through aircraft-grade aluminum.

I broke through the Valentine’s Texas Freeze ice so I could safely get into my vehicle using my ASEK in Feb. 2021. The hammer and glassbreaker in the pommel allowed me to precisely smash through the ice and not damage the concrete underneath.

ASEK as a system

The entire ASEK system is of notoriety here. The butt of the knife has the dual purpose of a glass breaker and of a hammer. To properly and safely use the hammer feature, you’d sheath and secure the knife and hold the sheath as the handle.

Within the sheath is another key component: a dedicated seat belt cutter with replaceable blades, and a flat-head screwdriver. The seat belt cutter also has gutted paracord for quick retrieval. That same paracord can be used in survival situations to last the knife to a stick, making a spear; or to thread it through the butt and use for additional security

A modern survival knife is built to get you out of a crashed vehicle (e.g. aircraft, or more realistically for many customers: your car or truck), then enable you to work with a small set of tools to get yourself rescued.

The glass breaker at the tip of the pommel should be aimed at one of the bottom corners of a car’s side window. However, many recent model year vehicles now have laminated glass that resists the spring-loaded keychain fob style window punches. I have yet to see anyone take a manual device, such as the ASEK, to task against the laminated windows.

Let’s examine the intended use of this knife system: Survival after an airplane crash, most likely in a foreign and unfriendly environment. Everything I’ve examined so far is designed around taking this tool and applying it to what would be commonly found on US highways and such.

Everything about this knife and system is an upgrade from the old Pilot Survival Knife.

The sheath allows for multiple ways of attaching to yourself or your clothing via MOLLE or leg straps. The sheath also allows for vertical belt carry on any type of dress belt or LBE / LCE or a modern war belt.

I used to wear my ASEK on the outside of my leg until I ran across a former 82nd Airborne jump master. He informed me that the ASEK — and any other knife — should be placed on the inside side of your leg.

Why buy this knife?

If this tool can get you out of a Chinook cargo helicopter, then it can get you out of your daily driver!
Conversely, if you’re ready to help as a good Samaritan, then it could be the difference between life and death before first responders arrive.

Here’s a scenario: You happen across a car wreck. Pro tip: Call 9-1-1 to get first responders moving. Depending on where you’re at, you might have anywhere from a four-minute response in city or suburban to a 30-minute response if you’re in a rural area.

The ASEK survival knife system in foliage green and universal camouflage. (Courtesy photo)


Additionally, we found this informative video from KHOU (Channel 11 in the Houston area) talking about how more recent model cars’ windows resist the smaller spring-loaded window punch such as the Resqme. No word on how resistant the laminated glass is to a manual glass breaker such as the ASEK.


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Creighton Holub

Civilian photographer and journalist turned Army public affairs operator and combat veteran turned publisher. Winner of local, regional, state and national awards in news, photography and journalism.

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