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NFO Skills


Active Member
I'm an SNA in primary up at Whiting and it's time to get serious about thinking about selection. I've always wanted jets but I've got an open mind. I know that I want a crew served aircraft for sure but I wanted to get a little insight into what FOs do for us in the plane. Specifically in the Super Hornet and Growler. I'm sorry if this has been covered elsewhere, if so some direction to the source would be apreciated.


Well-Known Member
There's a ton of info all over this forum and Google, man. Additionally, because this is an open forum, you're not going see any of us to talk about tactics.

In short, NFOs run the mission. In the hornet and growler, mission duties are shared, with the NFO also assisting with the safe operation of the aircraft. In the Hawkeye, we assist the pilots when they ask us to (frequency changes, breaking out the book, etc - we are not there to act as a copilot) - but that is not to say that we don't call out things that are unsafe. However, one of the worst things a Hawkeye FO can do is try to act like a 3rd pilot when not asked - they're big boys and can handle their crew duties.

When it comes to the mission in the e2, I've seen that pilots are involved in tactics as much as they want to be (this will change with the tactical fourth operator in the D). I've seen some pilots who actually want to come back and sit at the scope and ask a ton of questions, while others don't care (and that's totally fine - but their main responsibility is the safe operation of the aircraft). Just as we don't throw ourselves in the cockpit, they won't throw themselves in the tube.

So, in answer to your oddly phrased question..in the Hawkeye, we don't do much "for you" in the plane. As you progress in your training, you will soon realize that the NFO and pilot is a team and we are not there to solely do things "for you" in the aircraft.


Well-Known Member
Never meant to imply that FOs work for the pilot only what they do on our behalf.
Not trying to give you a hard time, but those two are essentially the same thing, but I won't argue semantics. It's easy for me to understand your thought process, because you haven't really been exposed to the relationship between the pilot and NFO yet.

If you are in a pointy nose jet, when it comes to tactics, you and the NFO should be so integrated the only difference would be who is at the controls of the jet. You will be ass deep in tactics as much as the FO.

In the Hawkeye, you will be able to step back from tactics, but will still definitely be able to get way into it, especially if you fly the D.


Well-Known Member
Yo man, good on you for being interested. NFOs are integral to the two seat community and the airwing. They bring another set of eyeballs and an extra brain to the fight.

That being said, it should have zero impact on your selection decisions. You won't know if you are a single seat guy until you get most of the way through the RAG, and by that point you're pretty much committed.


Well-Known Member
Since you're in primary, I'm guessing MPRA may still be an option for you, whether you want it or not. In the P-3, the pilots exist to safely transport the NFOs and the enlisted sensor operators to station. The division of labor is generally: 1) pilots handle safety of flight, 2) NFOs handle tactical execution. The more junior NFO (the navigator) also shares a bit of safety of flight responsibilities in that he/she maintains the transoceanic positional awareness and lot of obstacle clearance responsibility.

Now all that being said, all officers on the aircraft have overlapping responsibilities, particularly where it concerns leadership. Either the senior pilot (the PPC), or the senior NFO (the TACCO) are the qualified mission commander ultimately responsible for BOTH safety of flight and tactical execution. The TACCO has control of weapons settings and placement, but the PPC has arming control. There's A LOT of crew coordination and consulting with each other required, especially when you throw the sensor operators into the mix.

I haven't flown on a P-8A. My understanding is that there is a bit more division of labor with the safety of flight/tactical execution dichotomy, with the navigational duties being shifted more to flight station now.


Electronic Attack Savant
Man, I'm glad I ran across this thread, because we've just been training NFO's to get us coffee and take the fats chicks home from the bar. I should really take a look at new syllabus...

In all seriousness from a Growler guy, they are pretty integral to mission success due to all the real time stuff that happens. You are going to fly the jet and they will run the mission systems, but its a grey line where your duties stop and theirs start. The big deal is good CRM, and backing each other up as time permits. You can't just not learn the mission systems because its not your job. Its not like as pilots we just engage the AP and say you've got it, I'm going to take a nap up front. If you are lucky though you will get a great NFO in your back seat, and if you are really lucky, you will get an NFO who think's (s)he's a pilot and tell you how to tank, fly form and flying the ball.... those are the best.

The beauty of how it all happens, as a pilot you have it good. Every time you go fly it's the same, and you have an expectation things will happen your way and they will. NFOs have a very good ability to adjust to the fragile egos of all the pilots in the squadron and will in most cases adapt vice you having to change how you fly based on who is in your back seat.

I'm assuming you are going TACAIR in my response, because if you wanted to fly an airliner you would have bought a type rating and salvaged your soul from years of NKO IA training, and if you wanted to fly a helo you would have joined the army.