Naval Aviation is renowned for the demands it places upon its flyers. The skills and concentration required to land a high-performance jet on board an aircraft carrier deck pitching in the black of night, or to track a submarine while flying at only a few feet above stormy seas, are not only linked to a solid academic background or to top physical conditioning. There is more to it than that; it requires a combination of talents and dedication that many people possess, but few are challenged to use to full measure.
How do you get selected to be a Naval Aviator?
Graduates of the Naval Reserve Officers Training Corps (NROTC) are selected for flight training during their final year of school. All are volunteers.
Student Naval Aviator’s (SNA’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, SNA’s (also known as student pilots) are assigned to primary training squadrons. Primary SNA training is conducted at three bases: NAS Whiting Field, Milton, Florida, NAS Corpus Christi, Texas and Vance Air Force Base (AFB), Enid, Oklahoma. For the SNAs reporting to the Navy bases, primary training is approximately 22 weeks. It includes ground-based academics, simulators and flight training in either the T-34 Turbomentor or the T-6A Texan II. Primary training consists of six stages: Familiarization (FAM), Basic Instruments, Precision Aerobatics, Formation, Night FAM, and Radio Instruments.
Pipeline selections occur upon completion of primary training. This is based on the current and projected needs of the services, the student’s performance and preferences. Student naval aviators are selected for: Maritime (multi-engine prop), E-2/C-2, Rotary (helos) or Strike (jets).
Maritime students complete their advanced training at NAS Corpus Christi and upon receiving their Wings of Gold, Navy pilots report to the P-3 Fleet Replacement Squadron (FRS) while Marine pilots report to the C-130 FRS.
E-2/C-2 student training consist of multi-engine training as well as carrier landing qualification training. After primary training, students report to VT-31 at NAS Corpus Christi to complete 44 hours of flight training in approximately 17 weeks in the T-44. After intermediate training, E-2/C-2 students report to NAS Kingsville for advanced training in the T-45. Students earn their wings in approximately 27 weeks after receiving their carrier landing qualification.
Student pilots selected for helicopter training report to NAS Whiting Field and complete advanced training in the TH-57 Sea Ranger. Students learn the unique characteristics and tactics of rotary-wing aviation. They are also introduced to shipboard landing on the Helicopter Landing Trainer; the Navy’s only ship dedicated to teaching helicopter pilots how to land onboard a moving vessel. Once they receive their Wings of Gold, Navy helicopter pilots report to their respective FRS for SH-60 or MH-53 training. Marine helicopter pilots report to an AH-1, UH-1, CH-46 or H-53 FRS for training. MV-22 (Osprey) training is currently being conducted utilizing both the helicopter and maritime pipelines.
SNAs who enter the Strike (Jet) pipeline complete their training at either NAS Kingsville, Texas or at NAS Meridian, Mississippi in the T-45C. During Strike training, pilots learn strike tactics, weapons delivery, air combat maneuvering and receive their carrier landing qualification. Upon receiving their Wings of Gold, Strike pilots report to an F/A-18, EA-18G, or EA-6B FRS, and eventually report to their first Fleet squadron.
Naval Flight Officer
Prospective Naval Flight Officers report to Primary flight training following API. All NFOs stay in Pensacola and report to VT-4 or VT-10 and will fly the T-6 Texan II for Primary flight training.
Upon completion of Primary flight training, NFOs select either jet or propeller driven aircraft and enter into the Intermediate phase of flight training. Intermediate training builds upon the basic flight and navigation skills learned during primary. NFOs then select their fleet aircraft type. Aircraft types available to NFOs are the P-3 Orion / EP-3 Aries for maritime, E-2 Hawkeye for multi-engine, EA-18G Growler and EA-6B Prowler for strike, and the FA-18E/F Super Hornet for strike fighters.
Advanced Naval flight training is tailored for the mission specifics that NFOs have selected. Upon completion of Advanced flight training, they are awarded their coveted wings of gold and report to their respective Fleet Replacement Squadrons (FRS) for training in their specific aircraft. The FRS will teach newly winged aviators how to fly their aircraft type in all the various missions that pertain to their selected community. FRS graduates are now official 'fleet aviators' and will report to an operational fleet squadron.
Additional Aviation information:
Pilot training pipeline: https://www.nrotc.navy.mil/aviator.aspx
NFO training pipeline: http://www.navy.com/careers/aviation.html
Naval Aviation information: https://www.nrotc.navy.mil/flight_officer.aspx