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The ASEK replaced the World War II era survival knife which had a number of problems with the leather sheath and handle, the sharpening stone, and corrosion resistance. Requirements for the replacement knife, set by the United States Army Aviation Branch, included tests in:
Required features included:
Other features, such as an electrically insulated handle, were deemed desirable, but not required. Packaged in the sheath are a special tool for cutting seat belts and a diamond impregnated sharpening disk. The ASEK, made by Ontario, was adopted after trials by United States Army Natick Soldier Research, Development and Engineering Center in Natick, Massachusetts.
The US Army's Defense Supply Center purchased 11,881 Army ASEKS in 2004 and 2005 for equipping aviation life support equipment (ALSE) vests.
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