Air Force vs. Naval Aviation: My Thoughts

Discussion in 'Air Force Academy - USAFA' started by endoftheline, Feb 1, 2011.

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  1. endoftheline

    endoftheline Member

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    Hello everyone, I have been researching the differences between Air Force and Naval aviation the past few months and wanted to share what I have come to think about various aspects of each service. I am writing this for 2 purposes: first, being from a large Navy town, I was victim to many presupposed assumptions about the Navy vs the Air Force. After talking to many AF pilots I have come to slightly different conclusions. Second, and more importantly, I want an extensive network of AF pilots and Naval aviators to review what I say and comment on it so that my thinking can accurately reflect reality.
    DISCLAIMER: these opinions may seem biased, but that’s exactly why I’m posting it, so that I may decide whether or not they true based on a wider network of input.
    1.) A.What I thought: the Navy has more pilots and more planes, so there is a better chance of becoming a pilot.
    B. What I think: The Air Force and Navy have the same number of planes, but the AF has a lot more fighters. Also around half of the Navy’s fleet is helicopters.
    C. Conclusion: if you want to fly fighters, AF actually has better odds.
    2.) A. What I thought: Even if the Navy doesn’t have more planes, Naval aviators get most of the war-fighting action.
    B. What I think: The Air Force does most of the heavy-lifting when compared to the Navy. AF dropped overwhelmingly most of the ordinance in Vietnam, Korea, Desert Shield/Storm, and today in Iraq and Afghanistan. However; Navy pilots are often the first to strike as they are closer to the overseas targets.
    C. Conclusion: Nevertheless, if you want to see the most action, fly Air Force.
    3.) A. What I thought: Okay, so although Air Force carries out most of the air war, Navy pilots are still better in combat, more skilled, etc.
    B. What I think: Although Naval Aviators can land on carriers, this is not necessarily indicative of their overall airmanship skills. Air Force, fighters AND heavies, typically have more time in their air frames than navy pilots. Also, even though both services have side jobs, flying is more of a primary mission in the AF. Moroever; there have been several air battle simulations of AF aircraft vs Navy aircraft and AF historically wins. However; this may be due to mere luck or technological advances.
    C. Conclusion: either way, AF pilots have more experience, which speaks for itself. But they are definitely not always “better” per se.
    4.) A. What I thought: no matter what, the Air Force is still the chair force. If you don’t fly a plane you fly a desk.
    B. What I think: Although it may have in the past seemed as if the Air Force never deployed, or non flyers flew a desk, the recent conflicts have called for a much increased level of deployment cycles for both pilots and non-pilots.
    C. Conclusion: Air Force deployment cycles can be comparably rigorous and not only pilots serve time in the desert.
     
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  2. luckymacy

    luckymacy Member

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    Darn, I can't find the same reference material that my son and I used to come to the conclusion that if you want to fly fighters, let alone fixed wing, there was no contest, Air Force wins, easily. But what I can find to get you in the ball park are these links and you'll have to do some math yourself.

    From wikipedia it says a couple of things that seem to slightly not add up until you realize they are written at slightly different times so the inventory numbers fluctuate. I'll copy and paste but go read the whole thing for yourself:

    As of 2009[update] the USAF operates 5,573 manned aircraft in service (3,990 USAF; 1,213 Air National Guard; and 370 Air Force Reserve);

    Out of the 5,778 manned aircraft in service, 2,402 are fighters, and 1,245 of those are variants of the F-16 Fighting Falcon.

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/United_States_Air_Force

    From a different website, you have to do some math to count the Navy planes

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_active_United_States_military_aircraft#Navy

    But the one thing that really stands out is that the when it comes to the 5th gen fighters:

    AF is going to order "About 1,763 planned" F-35s while the Navy is going to order "About 340 planned".

    The AF is getting ~ 180 F22s, the Navy 0.

    And for old school kick *** and the kind you'll see supporting the troops every day NOW in Afghanistan it's the A-10. Watch Restrepo the movie or read the book War - it's the A-10 or the Apache that's getting the job done with our Army brethren. The AF has A-10s, the Navy 0 (I love the A-10!).

    In the Navy, you can be a good stick and still get sent to rotory wing training. :eek: Needs of the Navy... In the AF, rotory wing is probably still all voluntary. No one is going to make you fly egg beaters in the AF.

    However, if my son knew he could fly F-18s and in the future a F-35 off a carrier he'd be there in a nano second but the odds are so small it's not worth the risk to him. The following is common. I have a friend who's an ex-Navy F-18 pilot. He gets all misty eyed and dramatic when talking about the carrier glory days. Got out as soon as he could to get with an airline. Why leave the thrill? Ship is a hard way to find a wife, get married and raise a family. Eventually hanging out with 5000 folks on a ship gets really old and the pilots even have it the best since they get to get off the stinkin' ships more often but it still gets old fast. It's a young man's game is how it's best described to me.

    Besides, as a military brat who's been around including active duty myself, no one has better golf and tennis on average than the air force NOR more free time to use the facilities! :thumb:

    ps, we just named our puppy Australian Shepherd Marverick after Top Gun's character so it's not like we don't like the Navy...they party hard and know how to have a good time.
     
    Last edited: Feb 1, 2011
  3. Bullet

    Bullet Member

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    Disregarding my better sense not to touch this with a ten foot pole, I will simply say this:

    - The aviators from both services (and heck, I'm in a good mood, I'll even throw in the Marines and the Army) are on the whole SUPERB. Dedicated, professional, mission focused, willing to put life and limb at risk to get the job done.
    - Each culture is DIFFERENT in many aspects, but overall very similar in most ways, particularly attitude. None are better, or worse, just different. It is up to you to discover those cultural differences if allowed the opportunity before making your decision which service's culture better fits YOU.
    - Comparing the services aviation communities is like comparing the Yankees to Duke Basketball to the Greenbay Packers. They'll never play each other, so your never gonna win an argument on which team is better. So why bother? ALL are champions!
    (But being that I wrote this reply, I get to claim the AF as the Yankees!)
     
  4. futureAFA

    futureAFA Member

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    There are a lot of posts on this forum regarding the AF culture, and the many “traditions” it has. If you look hard enough I’m sure you’ll come up with a bunch of good posts.

    Here’s one regarding a little tradition I remembered reading a while back.
    http://www.serviceacademyforums.com/showthread.php?t=16210&highlight="weed"&page=2
     
  5. Hurricane12

    Hurricane12 USNA 2012

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    I'll let a grad or actual aviator answer the more fact-based elements of your post, but here's what made me want to go Naval Aviation (or Marine Air in my case) versus Air Force as a rebuttal of sorts.

    Some of us want to fly helos. To me, the missions that helicopters have in the Navy/USMC are pretty cool and you get to do a lot of neat things in a whole range of environments. Also, it's not like the only options out there are jets and helos. There's a whole host of other platforms to pick from (or be picked for).

    Honestly, the leadership aspect and ground jobs was something that made me look into the Navy/USMC more. Flying sounds awesome, but being an officer and getting to lead was something more important to me.

    One service isn't really "better" than another, they're different and intended to do different missions. Both have awesome aviators and officers out there doing great things. What really made me choose Navy/USMC over USAF was spending time talking to officers from the different services about their communities. I felt a lot more at home with the Navy and Marine guys than the ones from the Air Force, and so ended up going that route.

    I'd suggest posting this on airwarriors.com if you really want to know what some Naval Aviators think...
     
  6. navy

    navy Member

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    Navy / Air Force Comparison

    I am a retired Navy guy, so I have strong feelings about Naval Aviation and the Navy. My son choose the Air Force over the Navy. I am not sure what drove his decision, but I know we had several long discussions during the decision making process. Both services are very good at what they do, similar in many ways, and different in others.

    I think an important part of my sons decision was his "plan B" or backup plan. I asked my son, if you cannot fly, which service has your best "second choice" job. For him, the Air Force had the best backup plan. I have seen many an aviation career ended by a medical condition, or the "needs of the navy". Every Cadet/Mid should have a plan B, which they are comfortable with.

    Most importantly, I think it is important to follow your dreams. Be realistic about them, research each option, and know what is available. After you do that, follow your heart. If you really want to do something, then go for it. That holds true for many aspects of your career. The detailer may tell you that a particular job or duty station is better than another. Bottom line, do what is best for you, and if applicable your family. If you and your family are happy, you will perform well, and your career will be a success.

    Good luck with your decision.
     
  7. Bullet

    Bullet Member

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    What he said.

    (Or in aviation talk: "2") :thumb:
     
  8. Mongo

    Mongo Banned

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    The effects of every single item on the OP's list of helping one to choose either AF or Navy can be debated forever with no one ever reaching a conclusion. My opinion, if one needs structure and regimentation, go AF. It is too early, having never been there, to say that one has to like going to sea to be able to enjoy the Navy. However, if thoughs of feeling 100K tons of steel heeling to port as it turns into the wind to shoot YOU off the pointy end excites you, go Navy. Five thousand people whose sole job is to safely get you airborne and back on deck. You will learn to at least tolerate the lifestyle and flying off a boat is, for some, the most excitable and satisfying thing they can ever do. A totally unique brand of aviation that the vast majority of people in the business will never experience or begin to understand. It makes up for a lot of inconveniences.
     
    Last edited: Feb 2, 2011
  9. endoftheline

    endoftheline Member

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    hey guys thanks for the input so far, i really appreciate it -- luckymacy i will have to check that movie out!


    but with regards to Mongo, that's another thing i've come to realize. whenever i speak with a former naval aviator he always talks about his carrier landings. sure, this is a unique skill that is totally badass. but the thing is, it's almost as if it's the only thing naval aviators have to say....i find it interesting that out of countless multi-hour missions the only thing to talk about is the last 10 seconds.

    on the other hand, whenever i spoke with an AF pilot i hear them talking about taking off with thousands of pounds of ordinance, flying over kuwait, iraq, afghanistan (take your pick), and landing thousands of pounds lighter; what it feels like to know YOU were the angel on high who rescued the troops in contact from the enemy; how awesome it is to drop people/supplies out the back of their transport plane and know that they are about to do some good for people on the ground; the feeling of supreme air dominance when flying the baddest bird in the sky, the F-(take your pick); and the list goes on and on.

    i say navy can keep their carrier landings, and the air force will keep its air dominance ;).
     
  10. USNA84

    USNA84 Member

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    I am a USNA grad, son of an AF Navigator, and I was an NFO (Navy Nav) who trained and later taught with the USAF at Mather AFB in Sacramento, CA in the mid 80's and early 90's before they packed it up and moved it to Randolph. My oldest two kids went to USNA, one graduated and went to pilot training (classing up next week!), and the second chose Marine Pilot and will graduate in May.

    Based on my experience, albeit now nearly 20 years old, I recommended that my oldest son go to Vance for the joint Navy/AF pilot training if he could get that option. My reasons were based on the observation that the USAF treats their students better. It wasn't that the programs I went through 25 years ago to earn my wings were all that different, it's just that the USAF didn't treat us like Plebes during NFO training, and the Navy did. After putting up with 4 years of BS at USNA, it was a real shocker to be treated like an AOCS candidate in Navy training. The unofficial motto was, "Attrition is our mission," in Navy training. In USAF, it seemed to be actually teaching us something so we could become competent NFO's.

    As for the services themselves, we flew training missions with USAF pilots when I was an instructor at Mather. My experience was that they felt themselves superior to all other life forms on the aircraft - especially the FAIPs (First Assignment Instructor Pilots), guys who had come straight out of pilot training and who had no operational experience - and I did not like the attitude sometimes. There is definitely a hierarchy in the Navy in the "pilot vs. NFO" pecking order, but I found it much more pronounced in the USAF than the Navy.

    To endofthline's comment about carrier landing versus dropping ordnance, there have been a number of studies done to measure stress levels on pilots. Even in those circumstances when USN pilots were dropping ordnance on hostile targets, the stress level was much higher during the trap back at the ship.

    Bottom line, both are good choices, and I don't think you're going to find too many Navy/USMC guys/gals who did not get their first choice of jets and who went on to have successful and rewarding careers in helos or props who will say that things didn't work out very well for them.

    Good luck - I hope they don't pull you out of jet training and make you fly UAV's from a trailer in Vegas. :) That does happen.
     
  11. Mongo

    Mongo Banned

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    I recommend just the opposite. From my personal observations, no mid wants to go to Vance. Therefore, they get mostly the bottom of the selection process. Again, purely from personal observations. the attrition rate seems abnormally high. Conversations afterward, which are always biased, indicate a very impesonal regimented system. One is assigned to a particular class, stay with that class , and all training and studying in preparation is spoon fed as a group. Whereas with Navy, one is given a flight schedule and, by and large, they are on their own to get things done. Some work hard, some done. Hence the general statement from a lot of Naval Aviators, "If you want jets, barring a complete pipeline shutdown, you can get them."
     
  12. Mongo

    Mongo Banned

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    endoftheline, when you had your SA interviews, did you talk about the boundless boring hours of being a teenager, or did you talk about the things that challenged you, the things that excited you?

    Reread my last post. The equipment is the same, the mission is the same, given different inputs, the aircrews will perform the same. In the Navy, there are proportionally less candidates vying for training slots and once winged, the same proportions vying for fewer seats. Really, no difference. When you are on a mission over Iraq, does it matter a hoot how many fighters are setting on the tarmac stateside at some AF base in the middle of nowhere? Or how many bombs B-52s dropped in Vietnam. All that matters is that you and your wingmen can do their job. A job that the Navy was probably doing before the AF got there. It's about what trips your trigger, what makes you go, what excites you. Sounds like to you bigger is better. You should probably continue with your pursuits towards the AF.
     
  13. luckymacy

    luckymacy Member

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    F-15E crew recieves DFC

    Yeah, AF is the game.

    http://www.airforce-magazine.com/MagazineArchive/Pages/2010/October%202010/1010keating.aspx

    Full Story above, summary below: there were six F-15Es, four A-10s, two AH-64s, and a B-1 'delivering a world of hurt'.

    Airman Honored for Role in Saving Keating: Capt. Michael Polidor, an F-15E pilot, is the 2011 recipient of the Col. James Jabara Award for Airmanship. Polidor's actions in his F-15E on Oct. 3, 2009, saved the lives of numerous US soldiers when a large force of insurgents attacked Combat Outpost Keating in Afghanistan's Nuristan province. Acting as an on-scene tactical air controller, Polidor directed 19 coalition strike aircraft at the height of the battle to thwart the insurgents' attempts to overrun the outpost and annihilate its inhabitants. Eight US troops were killed and 22 more were wounded in the massive attack. However, "Without [Polidor] being overhead, there would have been significantly more casualties," said Capt. Prichard Keely, Polidor's wingman that day and the 2010 recipient of the Jabara award. This honor recognizes an Air Force Academy graduate for noteworthy accomplishment in an aerospace vehicle. Polidor graduated from the academy in 2004. He's also received the Distinguished Flying Cross for his heroics over Keating. (Colorado Springs report by Steven Simon) (For more, including Polidor's own description of the battle, see Saving Outpost Keating from the October 2010 issue of Air Force Magazine)
     
  14. endoftheline

    endoftheline Member

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    wow that's really cool! AFA grad huh? that makes sense.....

    anyways, i bet the airframes you just mentioned could deliver way more "death from above" than a whole aircraft carrier full of naavy planes ;)
    (tongue and cheek only folks)
     
  15. SteveHolt243

    SteveHolt243 Member

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    Almost every navy stud you can find will tell you this is bad, bad gouge. Mongo basically covered it, but the general consensus was always that navy training treated you more like a big boy or girl. But I'm sure air force types will disagree.

    Either way, you'll all come to your senses and realize that naval helicopter aviation is the way to go
     
    Last edited: Feb 4, 2011
  16. luckymacy

    luckymacy Member

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    Wow, put the Cr#%k pipe down bro! The only thing funny about this is that anyone would be proud to fly egg beaters! :eek:
     
  17. Mongo

    Mongo Banned

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    My son has been a Navy Tomcat/Super Hornet pilot FAC(A) since 2002 now on his 5th deployment to the Middle East. The Navy does the same thing. Only they think it is a part of their job, not worthy of a DFC.

    And personally, having spent 24 years in the Navy flying both fixed wing off carriers and helos off all types of ships, it is always fun to listen to the AFtypes attempt to disparage Navy helo ops. They don't have a clue. They must somehow equate it to the Channel 12 Eye In The Sky which they observe from their living room easy chair every night.
     
    Last edited: Feb 4, 2011
  18. luckymacy

    luckymacy Member

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    Yeah, that's why no serious pilot thinks of the Navy, they are so part time...
     
  19. raimius

    raimius USAFA Alumnus

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  20. dadkone

    dadkone Member

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    AFA v NAVY football 2011

    For some reason I have never been more motivated to see AFA decisively defeat Navy in football this coming fall (2011). I mean really win, and totally!
     
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