Imagine a scenario where air bases are attacked with (or indirectly affected by) a nerve agent during a major war. There is also a desperate need to scramble combat aircraft. Can modern combat aircraft, such as the F-16 still take off during such circumstances? What about other typical modern combat aircraft (F-15, F/A-18, F-22, F-35)?

While higher up in the air, I imagine the nerve agent should pose no threat to the pilot. However, it appears that even just suspecting there is nerve agents in the air on the runway should be life threatening to the pilot. Wouldn't the life support system ingest the nerve agent and present it to the pilot through the same system?

I haven't previously read about and couldn't find anything about chemical warfare filters equipped on the F-16's life support system. Does it have any?

However, I glanced at this info card from Cobham on F-16 Support Equipment: On-Board Oxygen Generating System.

It seems that the F-16 equipped with OBOGS has an on-board emergency oxygen supply. From various forum posts it also seems like the older block C F-16 has emergency oxygen supply. It seems reasonable that all combat aircraft have some sort of emergency oxygen supply, for obvious reasons. Correct me if I'm wrong.

Perhaps naively, it seems like enabling the emergency oxygen supply while taxiing and takeoff for the F-16 would allow it to still get in the air? Is there enough time to do this? Is the emergency oxygen supply stored pre-pressurized or does it require to become pressurized by the running engine? In that case, I suppose this is a futile effort. This is all of course, assuming a rather unlikely scenario where the hangar for the aircraft is assumed safe enough to even start up the aircraft in the first place.

What if the hangar is also unsafe? Can anything be done for the pilot and crew, beyond this? I suppose the crew could wear hazmat suits, but again, what about the pilot? For some aircraft, such as the SR-71, I believe pilots wear pressure suits before getting into the aircraft. However, then I assume the aircraft is then required to support this type of equipment, which I doubt the F-16 does.

Does any nearby nerve agent attack effectively ground all aircraft? It seems like something there should be a solution for.

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    $\begingroup$ I don't know about the F-16 specifically, but NATO air bases in West Germany in the 80's used to regularly hold exercises under full NBC (Nuclear-Biological-Chemical) conditions, with everyone in gas masks and protective suits. I'd be very surprised if they'd go to the hassle of protecting the ground crew, fire trucks, base security and runway repair crews, but forget the pilots. $\endgroup$ Commented Nov 28, 2019 at 10:01

1 Answer 1


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Source: Pilots Don MOPP Protective Gear - 25th Fighter Squadron, YouTube

If the base is equipped, then yes. The ground/flight personnel don the specialized suits for chemical/biological warfare.

And according to thedrive.com, a suit is also available for the F-35, though it took a decade to design. The delay was due to the F-35's complicated "enhanced man-machine interface".

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    $\begingroup$ Interesting. Thank you. However, is the F-16 MOPP compatible? $\endgroup$ Commented Nov 27, 2019 at 13:23
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    $\begingroup$ @AlphaCentauri: I didn't find anything that suggests incompatibility. The F-35 needs a special suit for F-35 reasons :) $\endgroup$
    – user14897
    Commented Nov 27, 2019 at 13:40

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