U.S. NAVY NAVAL FLIGHT OFFICER
As military aircraft grew more sophisticated and their roles expanded during and after World War II, the United States Navy realized the need for highly trained personnel to man the various systems—radars and sonars, weapons, electronic countermeasures, command and control—that were coming online with new generations of planes. It was simply too much for a pilot and a navigator to handle, and in response the established Naval Flight Officer designation.
When it was originally created in 1966, the NFO grouping consisted of five specialties: Aerial controller, antisubmarine warfare, bombardier, navigator, and radar intercept. Today, the Navy’s aviation assets are highly specialized, with specific aircraft dedicated to single roles such as anti-submarine warfare or electronic countermeasures. In the EA-6B Prowler, for example, the pilot is complemented by three personnel handling aircrew members handling electronic countermeasures, a mix of enlisted specialists such as Naval Aircrewman (Avionics) and an NFO.
As with all Navy officers, NFO candidates must have earned a four-year degree in a related technical field from an accredited college, graduate from the United States Naval Academy, or use an in-service officer accession method such as applying for the Limited Duty Officer (LDO) program. Those entering the service from the civilian sector first attend Officer Candidate School in Newport, Rhode Island, while those approved for the LDO program will enter the Direct Commission Officer Indoctrination Course. Both pilots and NFOs attend a month-and-a-half course air indoctrination program held at the Naval Aviation Schools Command in Pensacola before moving to their respective training squadrons. Currently, Training Squadron Ten hosts the Basic and Intermediate Flight Schools for NFOs.
Issued in a single degree, the Naval Flight Officer breast insignia is highly similar to the design used for Naval Aviator, but features two small fouled anchors in the center of a shield rather than the single anchor behind the shield.