Naval Flight Officer: Job Description, Duties and Outlook

Sep 23, 2019

Learn about the education and preparation needed to become a naval flight officer. Get a quick view of the requirements as well as details about schooling, job duties and training to find out if this is the career for you.

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Naval flight officers aid pilots by operating flight systems aboard Navy and Marine aircraft. As a result, they must undergo highly specialized training programs including officer candidate school, aviation preflight indoctrination, and flight training.

Essential Information

The success of aerial warfare missions depends in part on the actions of naval flight officers (NFOs). Found in the U.S. Navy and Marine Corps, NFOs require extensive education and training to operate the sophisticated electronic systems of military aircraft

Required Education Post-secondary degree
Other Requirements Specialized training
Entry-Level Pay for Naval Officers N/A
Projected Job Growth (2018-2028) Little or no change for all military careers**

Source: **U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics

Job Description of a Naval Flight Officer

NFOs fly in Navy and Marine Corps aircraft alongside naval aviators. Unlike aviators, NFOs don't pilot aircraft, but are instead responsible for operating the on board systems. To receive their wings of gold and the distinction of NFO, service members become commissioned officers and complete flight training. The service commitment for NFOs is 8-10 years.


Officer Candidate School (OCS)

Aspiring NFOs in the Navy attend OCS at Naval Station Newport in Newport, RI. Those in the Marine Corps complete OCS at Marine Base Quantico in Virgina. At the school, recruits complete classes in navigation, military customs, military history, and leadership. Recruits also participate in military training, which includes physical conditioning, drill, and inspections. After graduating from OCS, officers start flight training.

Aviation Preflight Indoctrination (API)

The API course in Pensacola, Florida is the first phase of aviation training. The six-week program combines classroom instruction with survival and physical training. Classroom courses include navigation, aviation physiology, aerodynamics, and engineering. During survival training, recruits learn parasailing, first aid, CPR, survival swimming skills, and how to escape sinking aircraft using the helo dunker.

Flight Training

Upon completing API, recruits stay in Pensacola for primary flight training, which lasts about 15 weeks. During this time, recruits use the T-6 II Texan and flight simulator to learn basic flight skills, such as navigation, aerobatics, flight rules, and aircraft systems. Recruits picked for the maritime pipeline go to Jacksonville, Florida and train with multi-engine aircraft, such as the P-3 Orion. Recruits in the tactical jet pipeline remain in Pensacola and train using the T-1 Jayhawk and T-6 II Texan.

For advanced training, recruits report to either Norfolk, Virginia to fly in the multi-engine E-2C Hawkeye or transfer to squadron VT-86 in Pensacola for advanced jet training. This phase of training focuses on the mission of each type of aircraft. After advanced training, NFOs are assigned to Fleet Replacement Squadrons and receive further training in their specific aircraft.


NFOs can serve as bombardiers, navigators, weapon systems officers, and tactical coordinators, according to the U.S. Naval Academy ( NFOs operate radar equipment to conduct surveillance and track aircraft, submarines, and missiles during missions. During warfare, NFOs can act as mission commanders, coordinating the actions of all aircraft involved. NFOs also control the weapon systems of fighter and strike jets during combat missions.


NFOs who choose to leave the military after their service commitment have several career choices available in the civilian sector. The aviation training and extensive flight hours NFOs receive can lead to careers as pilots for commercial airlines, transport companies, and private airlines. Other careers include flight instructors and aircraft maintenance engineers. The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics reports that commercial pilots earned a mean annual wage of $96,530 as of May 2018 (

Specialized training is required for naval flight officers before they can serve in a number of roles including bombardiers, navigators, weapon systems officers, and tactical coordinators.

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