What is a Naval Flight Officer?
Naval Flight Officers (NFO’s) are the men and women who operate the advance systems onboard naval aircraft, and some may also act as the overall tactical coordinators of multiple air assets during a mission. They differ from Naval Aviators in that they do not pilot the aircraft in which they serve. This division of labor between Aviators and NFO’s allows for each to concentrate more closely on mission tasks that require specific occupational training. NFO’s are integral members of the Naval Aviation community and are just as competitive as Naval Aviators for command of aircraft squadrons, air wings, and even aircraft carriers.
How do you get selected to be a Naval Flight Officer?
Graduates of the Naval Reserve Officers Training Corps (Navy ROTC) are selected for flight training during their final year of school. All are volunteers.
What to expect for training as a Naval Flight Officer?
Student Naval Flight Officers (SNFO’s) arrive at Naval Air Station Pensacola to begin their flight training. They spend about six weeks in Aviation Preflight Indoctrination where they are challenged both academically and physically. Classes include: engineering, aerodynamics, air navigation, aviation physiology and water survival.;
Upon completion of API, all SNFO’s report to either VT-4 or VT-10 located at Sherman Field aboard NAS Pensacola for Primary NFO/Navigator training. Here they will spend the next 15 weeks in academic, simulator and flight training using the T-6 II Texan. This portion of training is similar to the student pilot syllabus for learning the basics of flight, the landing pattern, navigation and aerobatics.
Pipeline and aircraft selections are made at various phases of training. SNFO’s selected after primary for the maritime mission will transfer to NAS Jacksonville, Florida for follow-on training in the P-3 Orion or the EP-3 Aries. A few SNFO’s will be selected for follow-on E-6 (Strategic Communications) training at Tinker AFB, Oklahoma. SNFO’s selected for the tactical jet syllabus will remain in their respective squadron for intermediate training. This consists of more time in the T-6 II Texan aircraft as well as further training in the T-1 Jayhawk. Upon completion of the Intermediate phase of training, SNFO’s either select the E-2C Hawkeye with follow-on training in Norfolk, Virginia or continue their training with VT-86 in Pensacola.
In the advanced training syllabus at VT-86, SNFO’s fly the T-39 Sabreliner and the T-45 Goshawk. Students will either proceed down the Strike pipeline ultimately receiving their Wings of Gold as Electronic Countermeasures Officers (ECMO) for the EA-6B Prowler or proceed down the Strike/Fighter pipeline for selection as Weapons Systems Officers for the F/A-18F Super Hornet.