All modern mode of transport has some air conditioning inside. But are fighter jets air conditioned? If they do, is it the same as an average car? Is it only heating, or does it also have cooling?

Yes, all the cockpits of nearly all the latest fighter jets are air conditioned. Most of these fighter aircraft have air-conditioned cockpits, irrespective of their primary functions – air-to-air fighting, bomb delivery, and air power, among other things. The fundamental ideas and the need for air conditioning in the cockpit continue to be the same, despite different manufacturers and governments having their design methods for fighter jets.

Fighter jets are air conditioned, and there is a whole system around them. It is part of the pressurization system onboard, known as the Environmental Control System (ECS).

The ECS is mainly designed to keep the aircraft’s cockpit not as hot and not as cold to keep the pilot onboard comfortable enough to perform its duties.

We must remember that fighter jets’ primary mission is to be deployed as fast as possible and be very maneuverable to dodge missiles. The pilot is the center of all those decisions onboard, and it is critical to keep him as comfortable as possible.

Do Fighter Jets have Heating (or cooling)?

The Environmental Control System does provide a heating solution. There is no way of choosing your temperature or directing it to your face. The ECS can only offer two options: hot or cold. Here is a diagram of an ECS unit:

Are Fighter Jets Air Conditioned?
ECS console on Fighter Jet

As you can see, the knob for choosing the temperature can only go to hot or cold, and it is the ECS’s role to cool down or warm up the cockpit.

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Asking a pilot who has flown a Tornado Jet says that the air conditioning in the cockpit is like a direct blast of hot or cold air directed to your body, and you can’t change it.

It is not as lovely as a Bentley, but it does its job.

Are Fighter Jets Air Conditioned? Why?

There are many reasons for installing air conditioning systems in fighter jets. Let’s read some of these reasons given below:

Reasons for Air Conditioning System in Fighter Jets

  • Air Conditioning is used in fighter jets to avoid oxygen deprivation which is also known as hypoxia 
  • It is also used to prevent the scorching heat of the sun
  • One of its uses is to provide cool air to the engines because if the engine does not receive the required air, at some point, it will become extremely hot and can stop functioning. Just like a car’s engine, the car will refuse to move forward if it is overheated.
  • The air conditioning system keeps the interior cool and makes breathing easy for pilots. Air conditioning is necessary for the pilots of fighter jets who have to wear full-packed suits and masks. It may increase their body temperature and cause them suffocation if there is no air conditioning.
  • Also, this system is necessary to keep the temperature regular as the temperature in fighter jets can sometimes reach above 62 degrees Celsius, which is unbearable for the human body.
  • Also, when a fighter jet climbs and descends at a speed of twenty thousand feet per second, it causes severe pain in the ear, sinuses, and other organs.
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Does it get hot in Fighter Jets?

Fighter jets have glass cockpits, and the pilots are directly exposed to the sunrays. Don’t forget that they must wear all their gear, including a parachute in some cases. Don’t forget that newer aircraft are full of electrical components and avionics, which also heat the plane. You can imagine how easily it can get hot inside the cockpit.

Fighter jets have an added issue which is Friction heating. The SR-71, for example, when flying at Mach 3.2, the surface of the plane would heat up to more than 260 degrees Celsius!

Not only fighter jets, but some passenger aircraft like the Concorde would get heat up to more than 100 degrees Celsius. The ECS is a fundamental part of fighter jets as it helps combat all this heat.

Why Do Fighter Jet Pilots Wear Masks?

Fighter pilots use oxygen masks over ten thousand feet to avoid hypoxia.

A fighter aircraft with a variable air-conditioned system will encounter a decrease in atmospheric oxygen pressure when flying at heights. That is why they use oxygen masks.

You might have seen media reports about the mishaps of fighter jet pilots losing their consciousness during flight. Despite having an oxygen mask and air conditioner, the pilots can sometimes faint due to insufficient oxygen supply or heat. It is crucial to provide them with a proper air conditioned environment.

What is the Difference between Passenger Airlines and Fighter Jet Air Conditioned Systems?

Here are the things that make the air-conditioning system of commercial aircraft and fighter jets different:

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Air Conditioning System in Commercial Planes

When it comes to implementing commercial aircraft, the comfort of the passengers comes first. The air conditioning systems of these aircraft often feature heat exchangers that are greater in size and more numerous. These heat exchangers partition the plane into multiple zones to provide pressurization and air conditioning.

Air Conditioning System in Fighter Jets

On the other hand, fighter jets can either have one or two pilots at the controls and do not require large heat exchangers. For pilots to complete moves, they need to quickly and accurately regulate the air pressure inside the cockpit to match the ever-shifting pressure of the surrounding atmosphere.


Modern multi-role fighter aircraft are air conditioned to ensure a pilot can accomplish his mission comfortably while enduring minimal physical stresses and fatigue. The advanced fighter jets have an air conditioning system to make sure that pilots of fighter jets complete their mission smoothly. Also, the air conditioning system helps cool down the avionic and weapon control system.

James Blake

By James Blake

Does it fly? Then I am interested!

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