Auto-eject in advanced fighters: Do on-board computers make the call and take action?

In advanced fighter jets, if its onboard computers judge that the plane has suffered a ‘fatal’ hit, and so long as certain criteria are met (such as not over water; not ‘behind enemy lines’ as defined and programed prior to flight; or any other consideration or factors that an air force might want to include), then: is the pilot auto-ejected? Is such an option available? If so, should it be?

I’m thinking of a scenario either whether the pilot is out of action and the plane won’t last more than a few seconds (as assessed by the computers) OR when the program predicts that a fatal and inescapable explosion/break-up is already overdue and even split seconds might matter.

I am assuming, of course, some pretty sophisticated programming and advanced sensors of all sorts. Even so, I doubt it’s beyond the capacity of, say, the US Military.


No. The only fighter which had an auto eject was the Soviet VTOL, Yak 38. And that was only under certain parameters if the engine cut out during its hover, not generally, since in that limited circumstances, the Yak38 tended to go from fine to fucked, faster than a human could react.
Otherwise, it’s not much use. Ejections have a certain envelope of altitude, speed and attitude where they are survivable, and it’s basically impossible to predict damage and it’s relation to those.

The likelihood of a false positive likely means it won’t happen. Erring on the side of not losing a 100 million dollar plane is preferable to erring on the side of saving the pilot’s life. Ejection is also risky to the pilot.

What might work well enough though is remotely-controlled ejection where a human in a buddy aircraft or command center can try to communicate with the crew, takes the aircraft’s “vitals” and make the call.

That’s basically just the same thing, but done at a distance, no?

ISTM that in certain, limited situations, this would be very easy for a computer to do. I.e., if plane is pointed directly nose-down at 500 mph and, say, less than a thousand feet AGL then the computer would know this is a fatally irrecoverable dive and auto-eject.

But yeah, it could still have false positives.

There would a human in the loop who can benefit from whatever decision aid computers might provide plus whatever other information may be available. Before jettisoning 100 million dollars, the military will likely want an officer of some type to give the ok.
Yes, there may be some cases where such a thing would be useful but it would present the significant disadvantage of relying on computers to assess sometimes ambiguous situations and make very expensive decisions. And for what? The fighter would be lost anyway. The life of the crew may be saved but the probability of that has to be balanced against the expected cost of false positives.

The navigator and radar navigator seats on the B-52 eject downward, greatly reducing any chance of survival. Even if you survive all the different devices hanging from the bottom of the plane, there is still the strong possibility of the plane hitting you on the way down.

Given an ejection is a highly risky thing to do, and ejection under many circumstances fatal, you would need to balance the risk of sensor failure, software error, control failure, killing a crew when the plane was safe versus the additional crews saved over a plane provided with only manual ejection.
Ejection seats themselves are very dangerous devices, and can kill ground crew and maintenance workers. Anything that makes it more likely that the seat can activate accidentally is a really bad thing. Coupling the activation system into the plane’s computer control system is not something I would be doing lightly. In even the most sophisticated planes I would bet that the eject activation is self contained, interlocked, and very reliable.
Given failures like the recent Lion Air 737 Max accident, I don’t think many people would be comfortable trusting a fully automatic ejection system not to kill them.

is this because they are sitting on a lower level of the plane?

Yes. The pilot and co-pilot are up on top where you expect them to be. The EW Officer and Gunner are behind them, facing backwards. The navigator and Radar navigator are on the lower floor, underneath.

See here:

Actually, through the “D” model the gunner had his own private cabin in the tail. It was the “G” and “H” models that moved the gunner to an ejection-type seat up front next to the navigator.

Too late to add: I know that what I posted is accurate because I was a crew chief for the 2nd Bombardment Squadron at March AFB, which consisted of B-52Ds, back in the late 70s.

I’m not sure that’s the right link, unless the D model had a full Skyraider cockpit wedged in back.

Dammit-should have looked before posting. Here are some nice tail gunner pictures.

Just to be clear then, there are still a rear-facing ‘guns’ in the B52?

If so, which would seem anachronistic in this era, is it still a pair (?quad) of 50-caliber or has it been upgraded to something with a bit more punch?

Not in the latter “G” and “H” models.

Well an AI system has saved several pilots in similar situations:

I don’t think its much of a further step forward to have them eject the pilot automatically if recovery isn’t possible.

Would an AI system be able to tell that a pilot isn’t trying to recover, but is actually trying to lessen civilian damage by guiding where the crash will happen?

Thanks for the link. Excellent. That is very much what I was getting at (and will assume that the still-classified stuff can do more and better).

I think that type of thing could be programmed prior to flight (based on, among other things, the reasonable likelihood of crashing into people on the ground).