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In most jet fighters, the cockpit is a glass dome and the pilot(s) are exposed directly to the sun.

In addition, they are wearing flight suits and full face helmets (most of the time).

I can only imagine that with no respite from the sun, the cockpit must heat up very quickly.

What measures are there for climate control or pilot comfort?

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6  
Not just the sun, but friction heating, especially at supersonic speeds, can dramatically increase the airframe skin temperature. Concorde, for example, would heat up to in excess of 100C at full mach 2.0+ cruise. The SR-71, at mach 3.2, would heat up to 260C+. – J... Jan 19 at 11:40
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Fighter pilots do not wear pressurised suits. There is no need for them. – Simon Jan 19 at 12:22
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Good point, but I assume that this is handled by the materials/composition of the cockpit itself. – Burhan Khalid Jan 19 at 12:23
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@Simon corrected, thanks. – Burhan Khalid Jan 19 at 12:23
    
I'm not sure how well it actually works. If you actually ask pilots (which I would do at air shows when I was a kid, if I could get near them since the lines were always long), the answer was usually you get plenty of heat but it's tough to cool off the cockpit. – Tim Jan 19 at 18:29
up vote 26 down vote accepted

Yes. Fighter aircraft have air conditioning systems. In general, they are called as Environmental Conditioning Systems (ECS). Their primary functions (as far as cockpit goes) include,

  • Cockpit Pressurization

  • Heating/Cooling/air-conditioning

  • Windshield anti-fog/anti-ice

The systems usually use conditioned engine bleed air or this purpose. The cockpit air conditioning is usually managed by the pilot. For example, in case of F-15, the following system is available:

F-15 ECS

Image from f-15e.info

with the available controls listed as,

TEMP switch: A three-way switch to manage cockpit temperature. When AUTO, cockpit temperature is automatically maintained at the temperature selected on the TEMP knob. When MANUAL, cockpit temperature may be changed with the knob, but not maitained automatically. When OFF, it shuts down off ECS air.

TEMP knob: A rotary knob to set the cockpit temperature.

FLOW switch: A three-way switch to select air flow. MIN, MAX and NORM settings are available for minimum/maximum/normal air flow, respectively.

FLOW knob: A four-position knob to set the air source. When BOTH, bleed air is supplied from both engines. When L ENG or R ENG, bleed air is supplied from the left/right engine only. When OFF, no bleed air is supplied.

The following image shows the other controls associated with ECS.

F-15 ECS

Image from f-15e.info

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From second-hand experience (I can say I am really close with a Tornado pilot), the Tornado has a compressor stage airbleed that directs some cold air directly in the cockpit.

He would describe it as a direct blast of air in the middle of your stomach, without any possibility to direct it elsewhere.

To answer your question, then, we can say that at least some military aircrafts do have an air conditioning system, even if it is probably not the best system ever.


Searching a bit further, this book mentions a "Normalair Garrett system": enter image description here

that, from a quick search, turns out to be the name of a british life-supporting system manufacturer, I would then suspect that this system is not limited to a few military aircrafts, but rather to be quite widespread.

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