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News > New Combat Systems Officer course opens in Pensacola
New Combat Systems Officer course opens in Pensacola

Posted 5/5/2010   Updated 5/5/2010 Email story   Print story


by Capt. John Severns
Air Education and Training Command Public Affairs

5/5/2010 - PENSACOLA NAVAL AIR STATION, Fla. -- Air Force aviator training took a huge step into the 21st century Wednesday, when the inaugural class of Combat Systems Officer students began training here with the 479th Flying Training Group.

As they sat down in classes this week and began a new year-long training program, the CSO (pronounced "Sizzo") students became part of a fundamental transformation of Air Force training that started in 2002, when then-Chief of Staff Gen. John P. Jumper ordered a redesign of Air Force navigator training.

"With the CSO, we are taking the best of three programs - navigator, electronic warfare and weapon systems officer - and combining them into a single training pipeline that will produce skilled, effective aviators able to meet the needs of combatant commanders," said Col. Richard M. Murphy, 12th Flying Training Wing commander, at Randolph Air Force Base.

The CSOs being trained at Pensacola are part of a new generation of aviator envisioned by General Jumper nearly eight years ago. Rather than specializing as navigators, weapon systems officers, or electronic warfare officers, CSOs will be trained in a common set of core skills and will be responsible for a high degree of airmanship to include advanced air operations, electromagnetic spectrum exploitation and aircraft weapon systems employment, according to Lt. Col. Jason S. Werchan, the 479th FTG deputy commander.

After graduating with their wings, CSOs will often serve as mission commanders, working with the aircraft commander to maintain situational awareness of their environment and successfully complete their mission, whether they find themselves flying on a fighter, bomber, special ops, ISR, or mobility platform. The common skills gained at the new training will help prepare CSOs to fill any of the roles once filled by navigators, WSOs or EWOs.

The training course the new CSO students will attend includes some major changes, including a significant increase in hands-on flying, according to Colonel Murphy.

"The CSO of the future will hand-fly the aircraft during training on certain profiles," the Colonel said. With increased airmanship, he said, "they will know how to react at critical phases of flight to any kind of change in the environment or new developments in the mission.

"The ultimate goal is to create a more situationally aware CSO," he said.

The CSO course at Pensacola will include 38 sorties in T-6 Texan II and modified T-1A Jayhawk trainers. These T-1 aircraft are uniquely modified platforms that are tailored to meet the specific multicrew training requirements of the CSO mission. The T-6 training will focus on crew resource management, aircraft handling, aerobatics, low-level navigation and instruments. After completing that phase, students will move on to training in theT-1, where they will incorporate electronic warfare skills, advanced navigation, and air to air intercepts into actual aircraft training missions.

The T-43, currently used to train navigators at Randolph AFB, will retire at the end of the fiscal year and will not be used for CSO training.

For training on the ground, CSO students will conduct 40 missions in T25 advanced navigation/electronic warfare simulators. These simulators are able to replicate the unique operational capabilities of aircraft across the service that a CSO might someday find themselves flying.

The 479th FTG became the 12th FTW's newest group in October, when it started operations in Florida as part of the 2005 Base Realignment and Closure Committee directive to relocate Air Force navigator training from Randolph AFB to NAS Pensacola, where the Navy conducts its Naval Flight Officer training. With the stand-up of the new group, nearly 35 percent of the 12th FTW is now located in Florida to include over 120 civil service maintainers.

"With so much of our wing now operating at a geographically separated location, communication and leadership is more important than ever," Colonel Murphy said. "We want our students to know, wherever they may be going through training, that they are still part of the 12th Flying Training Wing."

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