Are there any ejector seat designs with built-in thrusters, or boosters, which the pilot can deploy to maneuver himself out of, or away from enemy territory?

A use case might be that after the parachute is deployed, the ejected pilot uses the thrusters to change direction or propel himself in a different path.

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    $\begingroup$ A rocket big enough to take them out of enemy territory would be too big to be practical. The motors are only to allow safe parachute deployment. $\endgroup$ Commented Dec 27, 2014 at 12:31

3 Answers 3


Yes, modern ejection seats have rocket motors, but they are only for propelling the seat away from the aircraft and upwards, high enough for safe parachute deployment. An escape from enemy territory is not possible with them.

They are controlled by a guiding system inside the seat, but not by the pilot. Ejection by itself is stressful enough, controlling the seat would be too much for any pilot.

Nevertheless, this is impressive technology. Even when ejected pointing downward at low altitude, the seat will change course and lift the pilot up.

The seat featured in the linked video is the Russian Zvezda K-36, the only ejection seat which meets or exceeds all US Air Force performance demands.

To get downed pilots out from enemy territory the armed forces use helicopters. To build such a capacity into the seat would make it impossibly heavy and dangerous - would you like to sit on hundreds of kilos of jet or rocket fuel while being shot at? Just for the chance of flying home after ejection? And how deep are you allowed to fly into enemy territory for the system to work? No, this idea is a dead end.

The most promising concept today is to separate the pilot from the airplane, so he sits thousands of miles away while his craft flies deep into enemy territory.

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    $\begingroup$ "Would you like to sit on hundreds of kilos of jet or rocket fuel while being shot at?" No. In fact, I'd rather avoid even the being-shot-at part. $\endgroup$ Commented Dec 27, 2014 at 13:55
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    $\begingroup$ To get downed pilots out from enemy territory the armed forces use helicopters. More often and more effective is the use of PJs (with or without helos) $\endgroup$ Commented Feb 11, 2015 at 15:26

No, the small rockets present in an ejection seat are only for zero-zero ejection situations.

Although one can do some maneuverability using parachutes but the purpose of parachutes isn't traveling over land, but descending at a survivable speed.

The scenario you mentioned is ejection in hostile environments. Fighter pilots are trained for this and they are taught survival skills where they land. There are some psychological aspects of this too.

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    $\begingroup$ The K-36 is rated for inverted ejection down to 100ft. Clearly, the rockets do more than enable a zero-zero ejection. The thrusters do indeed change the flightpath of the seat, so No is the wrong answer. $\endgroup$ Commented Dec 26, 2014 at 23:53
  • $\begingroup$ I know fighter pilots are trained to survive in enemy territory, but the army/navy would always want to avoid that situation. In today's technological world, where there are portable jets which help people fly, I am sure the military are working on something. $\endgroup$
    – Firee
    Commented Dec 27, 2014 at 9:07
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    $\begingroup$ That "something" is unmanned aerial vehicles -- i.e. drones. $\endgroup$
    – RoboKaren
    Commented Dec 27, 2014 at 18:33

Back when I went through USAF pilot training I remember being told our ejection seats had gyroscopes in the seat which would rotate the seat upright following an ejection. Unable to find a source confirming this now, though.

Although a self-righting seat wouldn't be effective against enemy weapons, it might help against mother nature. And it's pretty cool technology. The violence of an ejection is probably a more important threat than a later threat from an enemy (the enemy can't kill a crew member who doesn't survive the ejection). Ejections from unusual attitudes do happen.


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