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A Comprehensive Comparison of BAK Systems for Aircraft Arresting

Aircraft arresting systems are crucial safety components that prevent aircraft from overrunning runways during emergency landings or aborted takeoffs. One widely used category of aircraft arresting systems is the Barrier Arresting Kit (BAK) systems. These systems comprise a series of components, including cables, energy absorbers, and tapes, to bring aircraft to a safe and controlled stop. This article compares different BAK systems used in aircraft arresting, focusing on their design, applications, and effectiveness.



The BAK-12 arresting system, developed by the United States military, is a well-established and widely used system across the globe. Its primary components include energy absorbers, purchase cables, and tapes. The BAK-12 system is designed to catch the aircraft's tail hook or main landing gear, depending on the aircraft type. It is typically installed at both ends of a runway to ensure safety during both landings and takeoffs.

Key features of the BAK-12 system include:

  • Compatibility: The BAK-12 system is compatible with a wide range of aircraft, from small tactical fighters to larger transport planes. Its versatility makes it a popular choice for military installations worldwide.

  • Reliability: The BAK-12 system has a proven track record of reliability and has been extensively tested and refined over the years. It has been instrumental in preventing numerous accidents and saving lives.

  • Maintenance: The BAK-12 system requires regular maintenance and inspections to ensure its components remain in optimal condition. This includes checking the energy absorbers, cables, and tapes for wear and tear and replacing them as needed.


The BAK-14 arresting system is another widely used system, particularly for military installations. Similar to the BAK-12, the BAK-14 system consists of energy absorbers, purchase cables, and tapes designed to bring aircraft to a safe stop. However, the BAK-14 system is specifically designed for use with high-performance aircraft, such as fighter jets, which require a more robust arresting system due to their high speeds and greater kinetic energy.

Key features of the BAK-14 system include:

  • Performance: The BAK-14 system is designed to handle the increased demands of high-performance aircraft, providing a higher level of safety and performance compared to the BAK-12 system.

  • Compatibility: While the BAK-14 system is primarily used with high-performance military aircraft, it can also be adapted for use with other aircraft types, making it a versatile option for various installations.

  • Maintenance: Similar to the BAK-12 system, the BAK-14 system requires regular maintenance and inspections to ensure optimal performance. This includes monitoring the condition of its components and replacing them as needed.


The BAK-15 arresting system is a relatively newer addition to the BAK series, designed for use with Unmanned Aerial Vehicles (UAVs) and smaller aircraft. The system's components are scaled down to accommodate the reduced size and weight of these aircraft, ensuring a safe and controlled stop without causing damage to the aircraft.

Key features of the BAK-15 system include:

  • UAV Compatibility: The BAK-15 system is specifically designed for use with UAVs, addressing the unique challenges associated with safely arresting these smaller, lighter aircraft.

  • Lightweight Design: The system's components are lightweight and compact, making it a suitable option for installations with limited space or where weight restrictions apply.

  • Maintenance: The BAK-15 system requires regular maintenance and inspections, similar to its counterparts. However, due to its smaller size and reduced complexity, maintenance may be less time-consuming and more straightforward.

​Engineered Material Arresting System (EMAS)

Although not a BAK system, the Engineered Material Arresting System (EMAS) is a noteworthy alternative to traditional BAK systems. EMAS is a bed of lightweight, crushable cellular concrete material designed to safely stop aircraft that overrun the runway. As the aircraft's wheels enter the EMAS bed, the material deforms and absorbs the aircraft's kinetic energy, bringing it to a gradual stop.

Key features of the EMAS include:

  • Civil Aviation Applications: EMAS is primarily used in civil aviation, particularly at airports with limited runway space or challenging terrain. It provides an additional layer of safety for commercial and private aircraft.

  • Environmental Advantages: EMAS is an environmentally friendly option, as the material used can be recycled and reused. Furthermore, the system does not require any complex mechanical components, reducing maintenance requirements and associated environmental impacts.

  • Maintenance: Compared to traditional BAK systems, EMAS requires minimal maintenance. The system needs to be inspected regularly to ensure the material's integrity and replaced as needed. However, this process is generally less labor-intensive than maintaining BAK systems.

Aircraft arresting systems are crucial for ensuring the safety of both military and civil aviation operations. Among the various BAK systems available, the BAK-12, BAK-14, and BAK-15 cater to different aircraft types and operational requirements. While BAK-12 and BAK-14 systems are widely used in military installations, the BAK-15 system is specifically designed for UAVs and smaller aircraft. On the other hand, the Engineered Material Arresting System (EMAS) provides an environmentally friendly alternative for civil aviation applications.

When selecting an appropriate arresting system, it is essential to consider factors such as aircraft compatibility, performance requirements, and maintenance needs. By understanding the unique features and advantages of each system, airport operators and military installations can make informed decisions to enhance the safety and efficiency of their operations. Ultimately, the continued development and improvement of aircraft arresting systems will play a crucial role in promoting aviation safety worldwide.

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