Training Information

Navigators in Multiple Classes

  • Richard (Dick) A. Bain (52-05, 61-18, 63-19)
  • Josh Batchelder (52-??(RI) & 64-04)
  • Walter F. Sosnowski (62-16 & 63-06RI)

Navigator Conversion to Combat Systems Officer

A Combat Systems Officer (CSO) is a rated aviation officer in the U.S. Air Force. CSO’s are responsible for air operations and aircraft mission/weapon systems, and is the new rated designation for navigators, Electronic Warfare Officers, and Weapon Systems Officers who complete Undergraduate Combat Systems Officer training at either Randolph Air Force Base, Texas (until Sept. 2010) or Naval Air Station Pensacola, Florida. Often the Mission Commander, the CSO manages the mission and integrates with the Aircraft Commander to collectively achieve and maintain situational awareness and mission effectiveness. CSOs are trained in navigation, the use of the electromagnetic spectrum, and weapon system employment. Aircrew responsibilities include mission planning, mission timing, threat reactions, aircraft communications, and hazard avoidance.

CSO training merges three USAF navigator training tracks formerly known as the Navigator (NAV) track, the Weapon Systems Officer (WSO) track and the Electronic Warfare Officer (EWO) track into one coherent training cycle  to produce an aeronautically rated officer who is more versatile. Parallel navigator and WSO training tracks ended in 2009 as the positions are being gradually phased out, and under AFI 36-402, rated navigators (those not CSOs) are not eligible for advanced CSO ratings. The separation between CSO candidates attending training at Randolph AFB and those attending NAS Pensacola is in the type of aircraft the candidates would later fly. Navigators graduating from Randolph AFB were assigned to airlift, aerial refueling, special operations, search and rescue, RC-135 reconnaissance, or B-52 Stratofortress duties,[1] while CSOs graduating from NAS Pensacola were assigned as Weapons Systems Officers in either the F-15E Strike Eagle strike fighter or B-1B Lancer bomber after follow-on EWO training at Randolph AFB.

At Randolph AFB, the 562d Flying Training Squadron (phased out Sept 2010) of the 12th Flying Training Wing was responsible for training inflight navigation with the Raytheon T-1A Jayhawk and Boeing T-43A Bobcat aircraft while the 563d Flying Training Squadron teaches the electronic warfare in an academic and simulator environment. The 563d Flying Training Squadron also incorporates the T-43A Bobcat and the T-1A Jayhawk in advanced CSO training.

At NAS Pensacola, Training Squadron 4 (VT-4) and Training Squadron 10 (VT-10) started conducting basic and intermediate flight training in the Raytheon T-6 Texan II, Raytheon T-1A Jayhawk and Rockwell T-39 Sabreliner, while Training Squadron 86 (VT-86) conducts advanced training in the T-39 and the Boeing T-45 Goshawk.

Beginning in fiscal year 2010, the parallel undergraduate CSO training track at Randolph will formally end, with Pensacola becoming the primary UCSO training site, and Randolph providing completion of specialized training hours for USAF CSOs. Training will be collocated with Navy NFO training but will not be entirely joint because of differing requirements.[1]

Upon completion of training, USAF CSOs receive basic Navigator/CSO wings. At seven years of aeronautically rated service, they become eligible for Senior CSO rating and at fifteen years Master CSO rating, although an effort is underway to rename the Master designation to Command CSO, standardizing same with their USAF Command Pilot counterparts. The rationale for this change is that USAF Navigators/CSOs now serve as aircraft mission commanders, and command operational combat flying squadrons, operational flying groups and operational flying wings in the same manner as their USAF Pilot counterparts.