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Combat Systems Officer eCourse

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What’s a NAV?

NAV (Navigator)

Once upon a time, GPS (Global Positioning System) wasn’t a thing. And while pilots certainly know their way around the points of a compass, some missions and aircraft required an extra brain in the cockpit. To be sure, and as already stated, the CSO career-field was born largely out of this role, and the wings all CSOs wear to this day are USAF Navigator wings.

The NAV role stems from the basics of aircraft navigation and is built upon the basics learned in the first phases of UCT (Undergraduate CSO Training).  NAVs direct the pilots and aircrew on pre-planned routes using classic tools of the trade: wind drift corrections, clock-to-map-to-ground techniques and thorough route study. 

You can expect mission planning, keeping tabs on the weather, plenty of route study, memorizing turn-points and identifying landmarks either visually or with onboard radar if you choose to pursue this route. In the aircraft, the crew will be looking at you to correctly adjust for winds, airspeeds and weather while keeping close tabs on turn-points, location and timing. Excellent and thorough mission planning is the key to setting you and your crew up for success, while execution requires continual engagement to deliver the right goods to the right place at the right time. Those goods may be people, supplies, or in-flight jet fuel, all delivered to the good guys at the right time and place. Those goods could also be a special delivery of a few thousand-pounds’ worth of airburst-fused, GPS-guided JDAMs (Joint Direct Attack Munition), delivered to make a bad guy’s day the worst – and last – of their life.

Expect, further, to become intimately familiar with long-distance and over-ocean navigation, as well as radar navigation – potentially while taking on the responsibility of keeping everybody alive as the aircraft blasts through mountainous terrain in the dark, with low visibility and relying on nothing but you and your grainy radar-screen. Typically found on legacy aircraft such as ANG (Air National Guard) C-130s and Active Duty B-52s, NAVs are, in many ways, the “Old Guard.” They keep classic airmanship alive and adapt it effectively to the modern battlespace. 

Planes that have NAVs: Legacy C-130s (Guard and Reserve), E-3s, KC-10s and B-52s