Before there were NFOs there were Naval Aviation Observers. In June 1960, the Basic Naval Aviation Officer School was established to train the future radar intercept officers, bombardier/navigators and air intercept control officers that were joining the fleet in ever increasing numbers. This was spurred in no small degree by the revolution in Naval Aviation in the form of the F-4 Phantoms, A-6 Intruders, A5 Vigilantes, EA-3 Skywarriors, E-2 Hawkeyes and P2V Neptunes serving or soon to enter Fleet service. All weather aircraft with complex weapons systems that required a second pair of hand eyes to work. Recognizing this, the BNAO school was established as part of Training Command at NAS Pensacola to provide a common basic school prior to going to their respective advanced and RAG (Replacement Air Group) squadrons for training in their field of specialty. By 1962, the first aircraft were added (UC-45J (Beech 18′s) and T-2As). On 8 February 1965, a change to Bureau of Personnel Instruction 1210.4C authorized a new designator and name, Naval Flight Officer (NFO). The new designator was appropriate for “an unrestricted line officer, a member of the aeronautical organization . . .who may fill any billet not requiring actual control knowledge of an aircraft.” Eight subspecialties were available at the time: bombardier, controller, electronic countermeasures evaluator, navigator, interceptor, photographer-navigator, tactical coordinator and reconnaissance navigator. The new NFOs continued wearing the Naval Aviation Observer wings. A few short years later, BNAO School was redesignated TRARON TEN (VT-10). By the end of the first 10 years, over 6,000 NFOs had been trained. (ed. Your ‘umble scribe etched his name to the roles in 1978 – SJS). In 1994 the first USAF instructors and student NAVs reported to VT-10 as part of a joint training agreement between the Navy and Air Force.
Today, VT-10 has a 60 member Navy, Air Force and Marine Corps instructor staff that currently trains over 300 NFOs and Air Force WSOs annually. In 1997, command of VT-10 began alternating between Navy and Air Force Officers.
In celebration of their 50th year, the Wildcats (ed., Cosmic ‘Cats when I was there – SJS) are hosting a reunion 23-25 Jun down Pensacola-way. Official events begin on June 23rd and include a kickoff social at the NAS Pensacola O’Club, golf tournament, symposium at the Naval Aviation Museum, VT-10 alumni Dining Out as well as an NFO winging at the museum on June 25th. The Wildcat Reunion Group welcomes all current and former members of VT-10 to come celebrate this historic anniversary of NFO training. Interested in going? Jump over here for the details
Life as a Cone-he…er, Student NFO (SNFO)
Before we got to the Fleet, we had to make it through the Training Command. Flying a variety of training aircraft, including the Mighty Frog (aka T-2 Buckeye), T-39 and TA-4, we learned the basics of our future trade – navigation, flight planning, intercepts and radar. We had good IPs and we had, well, screamers and a-holes. In other words, a representative sample of what we would see in the Fleet. The weeding out process started early — if you couldn’t think and talk on the radio at the same time, you were toast. YHS remembers one of the early washouts who thought he’d found a way to sneak by this challenge. You see, he wrote out a complete script of the flight from engine start to back in the chocks and kept it in a binder hidden below the glare shield in his lap. Worked just fine until the first wingover when notebook – and script, went flying in the rear cockpit, fod’ing it of course in the process…
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