If you dream of flying in the Navy, you’re probably wondering just how hard it is to become a navy pilot.

Becoming a Navy pilot is considered a difficult process because of the strenuous training, challenging requirements, and difficult skills that must be obtained.

A Navy pilot must satisfy a long list of educational and medical requirements, including having near-perfect vision (can be correctable) and no history of asthma after the age of 12.

Navy pilot training is also a difficult and lengthy process that involves learning how to take-off and land from aircraft carriers – which is something that even Air Force pilots do not learn how to do.

Navy Pilot Requirements

Becoming a Navy pilot requires clearing the following basic and advanced requirements. 

Basic Requirements

Basic requirements include your age, medical history, citizenship, and education. 

  • Age: You must be between 19 and 26 years old, and you must be commissioned before your 27th birthday.
  • Height: You must be between 5’2” and 6’5”. 
  • Sitting Height: Candidates need a height greater than 26″ and less than 31.4″ when sitting for non-ejection aircraft. Every aircraft also has its own specific height requirements. 
  • Weight: You must weigh between 103 lbs. and 245 lbs.
  • Vision: Your vision must be correctable to 20/20, you must have a full field of vision and cannot be colorblind. 
  • Education: You must have a four-year bachelor’s degree to become a pilot, and a four-year bachelor’s degree in a technical field from a regionally accredited institution to become an officer. 
  • Citizenship: You must be a U.S. citizen, either natural-born or naturalized. 
  • Drug Testing: You must pass a drug and alcohol screening.

Advanced Requirements & Qualifications

The advanced requirements to become a navy pilot include military tests, background tests, and advanced educational requirements. 

Educational requirements:

ASVAB: You need to score at least 35 on the AFQT to join the Navy

ATSB: Officers take the ASTB instead of the ASVAB. Candidates must obtain a certain score before taking further physical tests. The ASTB has 7 sections that combine into different score components.

You need the following scores:

Student Naval Aviators (SNA):

  • AQR- 3
  • PFAR- 3
  • PAF- 2

Student Naval Flight Officers (SNFO):

  • AQR- 3
  • FOFAR- 3
  • FOAF- 2

Medical Requirements

Candidate pilots undergo extensive medical testing, including medical history evaluations. Candidates can be disqualified for having previous medical conditions like asthma after the age of 12.

Background Tests

You must pass a Single Scope Background Investigation (SSBI), which checks your public records to confirm your citizenship and employment history.


You may join the Navy before graduating from college by attending Reserve Officers Training Corps (ROTC) or the Naval Academy (NA).

After receiving a bachelor’s degree, candidates attend Officer Candidate’s School and start flight training.

Navy Pilot Training

The amount of training it takes to become a Navy pilot depends on the success in different training stages.

Aspiring pilots attend Officer Candidate School in Rhode Island for 12-13 weeks.

There, they receive basic training in officer fundamentals and physical training – successful candidates are then commissioned.

Candidates subsequently attend the six-week Air Indoctrination course at Naval Aviation Schools Command in Florida.

The indoctrination course familiarizes candidates with aircraft systems and regulations, along with further physical training.

The next stage, Primary Flight Training, is the first flying stage, and it’s provided in either the Naval Air Station Whiting Field in Pensacola, Florida or the Naval Air Station Corpus Christi in Corpus Christi, Texas – both institutions have the same curriculum.

Candidates must pass multiple solo flights on a T-6B Texan II.

After Primary Flight Training, candidates choose which aircraft they want to fly.

Some aircraft have different height and weight requirements, and the Navy’s demands also impact candidates’ placement.

Candidates choose from five pipeline choices:

  1. Jet
  2. E2/C2
  3. Maritime 
  4. Helicopter 
  5. E-6 TACAMO

Navy Pilot Responsibilities

US Navy pilots have numerous responsibilities, including searching for underwater threats, conducting strategic aerial maneuvers or engaging in combat missions.

Specifically, fighter pilots may be deployed for anti-submarine warfare or mine countermeasures, search and rescue missions, or vertical replenishment tasks.

Other responsibilities can include completing sea control missions, conducting surveillance, and projecting aviation power over the sea.

Navy Pilot Salary

The average U.S. Navy Pilot has an annual income of approximately $74,286, but the exact salary of a navy pilot depends on their rank and length of service.

The higher the rank and longer the amount of service, the better the pay. 

Acceptance Rate for Navy Pilots

Only 1,300 aspiring officers, or 10% of applicants, are accepted annually.

Also, naval pilot training has a high attrition rate, with one study finding that 25% of candidates leave without completing training. 

On average, it takes 18-24 months to become a Navy pilot, and pilots must serve at least 8 years after being designated as Naval Aviator. 

Aircraft That Navy Pilots Fly

The US Navy uses various aircraft for combat and support roles, including:

  • Combat aircraft include the F-35 Lightning II and E-2 Hawkeye. 
  • Support aircraft include the E-6 Mercury, V-22 Osprey, and C-130 Hercules.

It’s Actually Harder to Become a Pilot in the Navy than Air Force

We can’t directly compare the Navy and Air Force because they have different training regimes and operational duties.

While it is hard to become a fighter pilot in the Air Force, becoming a Navy pilot is generally considered more difficult due to tougher training, higher qualification requirements, and the need to develop skills like landing and taking off from aircraft carriers. 

Wrapping things up, becoming a Navy pilot is difficult.

Not only do you have to meet a long list of educational and medical requirements, you must also pass difficult training.

Navy pilots also learn difficult skills like taking-off and landing from aircraft carriers.

Overall, becoming a Navy Air Force pilot is generally more difficult than becoming an Air Force pilot.

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