For twenty-five years after it was established in 1968, the AW rating stood for Aviation Antisubmarine Warfare Operator, reflecting a specialization that was clearly born out of Cold War needs to monitor the activities of Soviet submarines. Following the collapse of the Soviet Union and cooling of Cold-War tensions, the rating’s title was changed to the more generic Aviation Warfare System Operator in 1993, but the abbreviation remained AW.
Fifteen years later, the AW rating title was changed to the current designation of Naval Aircrewman, but the complexity of modern Naval aviation platforms necessitated the creation of five service ratings comprising nearly 20 different jobs.
Aircrewman Operators (AWO) are members of maritime patrol aircraft crews that gather intelligence by detecting, tracking, classifying, and analyzing both surface and subsurface contacts. Aircrewmen Mechanical (AWF) form integrated tactical crews tasked with primary ground and in-flight duties for fixed-wing aircraft including (but not limited to) the C-2 Greyhound, C-37 (military variant of the Gulfstream), C-40 Clipper (military variation of the Boeing 737), E-6 Mercury (airborne command and control), and P-3 Orion (antisubmarine and surveillance).
Sailors serving as Aircrewmen Avionics (AWV) work in one of five jobs on fixed-wing assets performing maritime patrols, reconnaissance, and command-and-control functions. Two AW ratings, AWS and AWR, are related to rotary-wing aircraft; the former typically involves multi-mission choppers, while AWR involves Tactical Helicopters and consequently has more jobs (5 as opposed to 2 for the AWS rating) because of the additional responsibilities related to handling ordnance and weapons delivery.