Combat Systems Officer

Combat Systems Officer
U.S. Air Force Navigator Badge

A Combat Systems Officer (CSO) is a rated aviation officer in the U.S. Air Force, having been previously known by the title Navigator. CSOs 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 with Air Education and Training Command's 479th Flying Training Group at Naval Air Station Pensacola, Florida.

Often the Mission Commander in USAF aircraft, 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 previous 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 in order 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 or reduced. Under AFI 36-402, rated navigators (those not CSOs) are not eligible for advanced CSO ratings. The separation between CSO candidates previously attending training at Randolph AFB until 2009 and those attending NAS Pensacola is in the type of aircraft the candidates later fly. Navigators that graduated from Randolph AFB were assigned to C-130 airlift, KC-135 aerial refueling, AC-130 and MC-130 special operations, HC-130 search and rescue, WC-130 weather reconnaissance, RC-135 reconnaissance, E-3 AWACS or E-8 J-STARS electronic warfare or B-52 Stratofortress bomber 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.[2]

Prior to its disestablishment at Randolph AFB, the 562d Flying Training Squadron 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.[1] The 563d Flying Training Squadron also incorporated the T-43A Bobcat and the T-1A Jayhawk in advanced CSO training. The T-43A has since been retired and all T-1A CSO training transferred to the 479 FTG at NAS Pensacola.

At NAS Pensacola, US Navy Training Squadron 4 (VT-4) and US Navy Training Squadron 10 (VT-10) conduct 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 formally ended, 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.[1]

Starting in the summer of 2010, all Air Force CSO students began attending training at NAS Pensacola as the training squadrons at Randolph AFB closed down in accordance with the 2005 BRAC Committee findings. CSO Students now fall under the 479th Flying Training Group, with two training squadrons (451 FTS and 455 FTS) and one operations support squadron (479 OSS).

The first CSO class (11-01) under the new syllabus started May 5, 2010, and graduated on April 15th, 2011. The ten students graduating from the new program are set for follow on training in the following aircraft: F-15E, B-1B, C-130E/C-130H, AC-130H/AC-130U and KC-135.


See also


  1. ^ a b c d Kreisher, Otto. "Versatile, Ready, and Rated". AIR FORCE Magazine, August 2007 (vol. 90, no. 8). Accessed July 11, 2009.
  2. ^ Combat Systems Officer (CSO), Flight Careers - Officer Opportunities in the U.S. Air Force. Accessed July 11, 2009.

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