New Advanced Travel Pod Designed For the F-35A Delivered To Eielson AFB

F-35 travel pod
A composite image showing the Advanced Travel Pod of the F-35 (Image credit: The Aviationist, using KIHOMAC and USAF images)

The MXU-1072/A 5th generation travel pod is carried inside the F-35A Lightning II’s weapons bays.

A travel pod is usually an external fuel tank or canister, that has been adapted with an external door and internal shelves equipped with tie-downs, enabling the transportation of baggage. This setup is commonly used to carry various items during XC (Cross Country) missions or deployments, when aircrews need to accommodate a few small overnight bags as well as other stuff (like, for instance, squadron swag to be sold at airshows).

While previous generation aircraft carry the travel pod on one of the external stations, the F-35 has been equipped with an internal “5th generation pod”, also known as the Advanced Travel Pod (ATP).

At least one of the first ATPs ordered by the U.S. Air Force for the F-35A Lighting II fleet has been delivered to Eielson Air Force Base, Alaska, the base announced with a post on Facebook on Apr. 28, 2024.

“The 356th Fighter Squadron have helped unveil a new Advanced Travel Pod designed for the F-35A Lightning II at Eielson”, says the FB post. “The ATP is a 5th generation travel pod meant to succeed the legacy models and fit the needs of the Air Force’s Agile Combat Employment structure”.

No additional detail is provided, besides a few photographs showing the base’s personnel at work on the pod.

The pod shown in the photographs is the KIHOMAC MXU-1072/A ATP. First rolled out in 2021, the pod is a carbon fiber construction designed and manufactured at KIHOMAC’s Center for Advanced Manufacturing in Layton, Utah. It was designed for internal use on the F-35 with many features not available on previous generation’s travel pods, like the MXU-648/A, based on the BLU-27/B napalm canister used on the F-16, A-10, F-15 and other types.

New features of the F-35 ATP. (KIHOMAC)

In particular, the new ATP features include:

  • Larger access doors for improved access and versatility for outsized equipment.
  • KIHOMAC’s Integrated Tie-down System with more flexibility for storage of odd-sized items and proper security of all items for flight.
  • Lighter weight design, at over 40 pounds less than the legacy pod it is easily manageable by two crew members.
  • Larger storage space with nearly 3 times more internal storage than the legacy pod (12 cubic-feet).
  • Standard NATO Lug spacing to ensure compatibility with U.S. military services and international partners
  • Removable end caps for easy loading and unloading of long items.
  • Stabilization feet to prevent rolling and unnecessary wear during ground operations
  • Quick release latches to improve handling and access for F-35 crews.

According to KIHOMAC, the F-35 JPO (Joint Program Office) issued the Airworthiness Certification for the MXU-1072/A last month, effectively giving the green light to the field use of the first pods. “We are well on our way to delivering the first 130 pods ordered by the Air Force’s F-35 FMO [Fleet Management Office] last September, with the initial delivery planned for early April 2024” said the company on a LinkedIn post.

About David Cenciotti
David Cenciotti is a journalist based in Rome, Italy. He is the Founder and Editor of “The Aviationist”, one of the world’s most famous and read military aviation blogs. Since 1996, he has written for major worldwide magazines, including Air Forces Monthly, Combat Aircraft, and many others, covering aviation, defense, war, industry, intelligence, crime and cyberwar. He has reported from the U.S., Europe, Australia and Syria, and flown several combat planes with different air forces. He is a former 2nd Lt. of the Italian Air Force, a private pilot and a graduate in Computer Engineering. He has written five books and contributed to many more ones.