Difference between Air Force and Navy/ Marine Pilots

TomB

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While I am waiting to hear back from the academies, I am trying to do more in-depth research about which career path I think is best for me. I am torn between the Air Force and Marine Corps ( I mainly want Marine Corps pilot). Is there any real difference between Air Force and Navy/ Marine Corps pilots?
 

NavyHoops

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Yes. Navy and Marine pilots launch themselves off carriers (for some platforms). The Navy is a sea going service. So it’s focus is on that. Your shore tour could include a non-flying tour on a carrier. If you don’t like the prospect of being a sea, not a good path. Not every platform is at sea, C-130s don’t. C-2s generally at land based but go to carriers. Deployments are usually 6 months with a workup cycle of 6 months prior. Marine Corps, you are a Marine first and pilot second. You have TBS before you ever get to flight school. It’s all about supporting the Marines on the ground. You are a support element to them. I will leave the Air Force stuff to others, but having spent a lot of time with Air Force units and on their bases, it’s all about flying and then those who support flying. Thee are some personality tendencies between the services that have many old threads.
 

Humey

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My son is going into the AF. However, the saying is that in the Navy, the pilots are told what they cant do. In the Air Force, they are told what they can do
 

TomB

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Yes. Navy and Marine pilots launch themselves off carriers (for some platforms). The Navy is a sea going service. So it’s focus is on that. Your shore tour could include a non-flying tour on a carrier. If you don’t like the prospect of being a sea, not a good path. Not every platform is at sea, C-130s don’t. C-2s generally at land based but go to carriers. Deployments are usually 6 months with a workup cycle of 6 months prior. Marine Corps, you are a Marine first and pilot second. You have TBS before you ever get to flight school. It’s all about supporting the Marines on the ground. You are a support element to them. I will leave the Air Force stuff to others, but having spent a lot of time with Air Force units and on their bases, it’s all about flying and then those who support flying. Thee are some personality tendencies between the services that have many old threads.
My son is going into the AF. However, the saying is that in the Navy, the pilots are told what they cant do. In the Air Force, they are told what they can do
Thank you both or the insight. My main goal is to fly MV-22 or Cv-22 Ospreys. I want to do so in the Marines but I am worried to be told I can't fly that aircraft, it's my dream to do so.
 

BTCS/USN

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My son is going into the AF. However, the saying is that in the Navy, the pilots are told what they cant do. In the Air Force, they are told what they can do
That's because Navy pilots and/or previous Navy pilots have probably already have "done it" and thus know what not to do hence the what you can't or at the least shouldn't do. Preservation of the species.

Air Force pilots are told what they can do but as a whole are still testing the limits. [emoji23][emoji23][emoji23]
 

Dolphin112

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Your shore tour could include a non-flying tour on a carrier. If you don’t like the prospect of being a sea, not a good path. Not every platform is at sea, C-130s don’t. C-2s generally at land based but go to carriers
Shore tours in the Navy are on shore not on a carrier or on any seagoing platform. While I have a son at the AFA I spent thirty years in the Navy, and while most of it was underwater my last sea tour was on a carrier on a staff. Navy and Marine pilots are amazing men and women. Landing on a carrier at an eleven degree offset that is moving at least twenty knots through the water. Impressive stuff in particular night ops. You can't go wrong no matter what branch you choose.
 

flieger83

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Okay, all kidding aside; the difference in USAF pilots vs USN/USMC...from an AF pilots' perspective.

USAF pilots are many, varied, and very "community" conscious. Bomber folks are bombers, fighters, etc. ALL think they're the end-all of the AF and critical to the mission. And...they are. USN/USMC pilots are VERY similar (this from flying with them) in basic life: they are guided/led-by-the-nose by something called NATOPS. I've heard many an angry USN/USMC aviator saying very unkind things about NATOPS. They all like to tell everyone they're amazing because they land on ships. Okay...that's a pretty amazing thing but lets be honest, it's taught to an awful lot of folks so...

Now...all MY kidding aside: USN pilots are outstanding at fleet air defense! They will pretty much do anything to defend their fleet, and they're VERY good at it! In an air-to-air "contest" they are very good at the art of aerial combat. USMC pilots...they are 100% dedicated to the marine on the ground. I don't care if they're flying C-130's hauling gear to the front, or flying air-support, they're 100% dedicated to their marines on the ground. And they're pretty excellent at that mission! Marines know if they're in combat and they hear a jet; it's most likely theirs and not the enemy's.

USAF pilots...they're the big-boys on the block. They have all the missions; and they support all the forces, and they know it. They know if their tankers don't fly, missions don't get accomplished. If the bombers can't go, then other assets must be called in that aren't as capable. If the air bridge goes down...well, a lot of army soldiers and marines will not get the equipment they need.

In other words, while we'll go the bar and really give each other what-for about "who's the best" and such...we know we're all members of the same team, same profession (aviators) and are all skilled at what we do.

That's my way of saying you won't go wrong with any of the three. And in honesty...I've got lots of good things to say about Army drivers too!

Steve
USAFA ALO
USAFA '83
 

Hurricane12

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As a Marine Corps Pilot...
I’ll disagree with flieger in that I’ve never felt hampered by NATOPS or other pub-imposed limitation. There is an infamous “catch all” in the front of all USN and USMC aviation pubs that the procedures within are no substitute for good judgement, and the idea that blindly following the pubs may not always be right is hammered into naval aviators from day one.

As a Marine aviator, your ultimate reason for existence is to support the Marine on the ground. That is something taken extremely seriously. As an aviator, you are expected to become an expert in whatever it is you do to help their mission. For an H-1 pilot, that is normally close air support (shooting things near friendly forces). For an osprey pilot, that is assault support (putting people where they need to go with the things they need). Your training and deployments will be tailored to that. Planning for missions will be done on a peer to peer basis with pilots talking directly to their ground counterpart.
Often aviation units will be tightly paired with the ground unit they are supporting. On my deployment (which I want to emphasize was not high speed or cool at all), I knew if we were called to go do something it would be in support of guys I actually knew, in some cases a dude I may have eaten breakfast with that morning.

There are disadvantages to how the USMC does things. There is a very confusing parts acquisition process, which can lead to frustrations, and in the case of older airframes fewer flight hours. Quality of life, as a general concept, is not something given much credence in the Marine Corps. Even when not deployed, aviators can expect to be gone for several months out of the year for training. People outside the air wing do not always understand it and will assume that it is less interesting or difficult than what they do because it is not the main effort of the Marine Corps, which is normally false. There are rarely bonuses or incentives in the Marine Corps, because being a Marine is supposed to be enough.

With all that being said I’ve truly loved my time flying in the USMC and wouldn’t trade it for the most cush (or badass) job in the USAF for a million dollars. But it’s not for everyone.
 

flieger83

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"There is an infamous “catch all” in the front of all USN and USMC aviation pubs that the procedures within are no substitute for good judgement, and the idea that blindly following the pubs may not always be right is hammered into naval aviators from day one. "

Hurricane12 is absolutely correct and I should have also included this as it's in every USAF pub in one form or another. And it makes perfectly good sense too!

Steve
USAFA ALO
USAFA '83
 

TomB

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As a Marine Corps Pilot...
I’ll disagree with flieger in that I’ve never felt hampered by NATOPS or other pub-imposed limitation. There is an infamous “catch all” in the front of all USN and USMC aviation pubs that the procedures within are no substitute for good judgement, and the idea that blindly following the pubs may not always be right is hammered into naval aviators from day one.

As a Marine aviator, your ultimate reason for existence is to support the Marine on the ground. That is something taken extremely seriously. As an aviator, you are expected to become an expert in whatever it is you do to help their mission. For an H-1 pilot, that is normally close air support (shooting things near friendly forces). For an osprey pilot, that is assault support (putting people where they need to go with the things they need). Your training and deployments will be tailored to that. Planning for missions will be done on a peer to peer basis with pilots talking directly to their ground counterpart.
Often aviation units will be tightly paired with the ground unit they are supporting. On my deployment (which I want to emphasize was not high speed or cool at all), I knew if we were called to go do something it would be in support of guys I actually knew, in some cases a dude I may have eaten breakfast with that morning.

There are disadvantages to how the USMC does things. There is a very confusing parts acquisition process, which can lead to frustrations, and in the case of older airframes fewer flight hours. Quality of life, as a general concept, is not something given much credence in the Marine Corps. Even when not deployed, aviators can expect to be gone for several months out of the year for training. People outside the air wing do not always understand it and will assume that it is less interesting or difficult than what they do because it is not the main effort of the Marine Corps, which is normally false. There are rarely bonuses or incentives in the Marine Corps, because being a Marine is supposed to be enough.

With all that being said I’ve truly loved my time flying in the USMC and wouldn’t trade it for the most cush (or badass) job in the USAF for a million dollars. But it’s not for everyone.

Okay, all kidding aside; the difference in USAF pilots vs USN/USMC...from an AF pilots' perspective.

USAF pilots are many, varied, and very "community" conscious. Bomber folks are bombers, fighters, etc. ALL think they're the end-all of the AF and critical to the mission. And...they are. USN/USMC pilots are VERY similar (this from flying with them) in basic life: they are guided/led-by-the-nose by something called NATOPS. I've heard many an angry USN/USMC aviator saying very unkind things about NATOPS. They all like to tell everyone they're amazing because they land on ships. Okay...that's a pretty amazing thing but lets be honest, it's taught to an awful lot of folks so...

Now...all MY kidding aside: USN pilots are outstanding at fleet air defense! They will pretty much do anything to defend their fleet, and they're VERY good at it! In an air-to-air "contest" they are very good at the art of aerial combat. USMC pilots...they are 100% dedicated to the marine on the ground. I don't care if they're flying C-130's hauling gear to the front, or flying air-support, they're 100% dedicated to their marines on the ground. And they're pretty excellent at that mission! Marines know if they're in combat and they hear a jet; it's most likely theirs and not the enemy's.

USAF pilots...they're the big-boys on the block. They have all the missions; and they support all the forces, and they know it. They know if their tankers don't fly, missions don't get accomplished. If the bombers can't go, then other assets must be called in that aren't as capable. If the air bridge goes down...well, a lot of army soldiers and marines will not get the equipment they need.

In other words, while we'll go the bar and really give each other what-for about "who's the best" and such...we know we're all members of the same team, same profession (aviators) and are all skilled at what we do.

That's my way of saying you won't go wrong with any of the three. And in honesty...I've got lots of good things to say about Army drivers too!

Steve
USAFA ALO
USAFA '83

I appreciate all of the responses! I’m getting excited just thinking about it all! I’ll defintely take both of your advice into consideration when I think about a final decision. Hopefully I’ll hear back from the academies soon.
 

zachtx

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Thank you both or the insight. My main goal is to fly MV-22 or Cv-22 Ospreys. I want to do so in the Marines but I am worried to be told I can't fly that aircraft, it's my dream to do so.
One thing worth considering is that while the Marines and Air Force are flying essentially the same aircraft, their mission is not quite the same. I can't speak as intelligently to the Marine side, but like it was said above, their aircraft are used to support their ground units. They are going to use the MV-22 to move troops, equipment, and supplies from ships and land bases for combat assault and assault support being done by Marine ground. The Air Force CV-22 operates under USSOCOM taskings, and is used to support a wide array of missions being conducted by a variety of tier 1 and tier 2 SOF customers. So, same aircraft, and same type of flying, but one will travel with the MEU and forward deploy with Marine Infantry, while the other deploys as needed to operate in places where the 160th doesn't quite have the gas/speed to get there.
 

Hoodlum15

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Also, not to put a damper on things, but you have to remember that there are an awful lot of steps between where you are today and becoming a pilot in your airframe of choice. When making a branch decision make sure you also think about where you'd be happy if it comes to your plan B, C, D.
 

TomB

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Also, not to put a damper on things, but you have to remember that there are an awful lot of steps between where you are today and becoming a pilot in your airframe of choice. When making a branch decision make sure you also think about where you'd be happy if it comes to your plan B, C, D.
That is a good point.
 

Soldiergriz

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It’s all about supporting the Marines on the ground.

As a Marine aviator, your ultimate reason for existence is to support the Marine on the ground. That is something taken extremely seriously.

We grunts appreciate this more than we would ever admit!

Yes! But, before you put on your cute flight suit - remember warfare is ultimately a human endeavor won or lost by those on the ground. ;) But, at the pub - I buy the first round the pilots.
 

New@This

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Very interesting and I am going to have DS read this.

Can somebody talk about Army pilots. The local USMA Field Force rep has repeatedly told DS that if he wants to fly he should go army. He says army has more pilots than any other branch. Any insight or elaboration on this?
 

Humey

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Very interesting and I am going to have DS read this.

Can somebody talk about Army pilots. The local USMA Field Force rep has repeatedly told DS that if he wants to fly he should go army. He says army has more pilots than any other branch. Any insight or elaboration on this?
Except they are mostly helicopters. So yes if he wants to fly a helicopter than Army is the way to go. If he wants fixed wings, then Army isnt the way to go
 

JRS92078

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Except they are mostly helicopters. So yes if he wants to fly a helicopter than Army is the way to go. If he wants fixed wings, then Army isnt the way to go

I am curious to if this is true or not.. I have heard Army uses more Warrant officers to do their flying?
 

Humey

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Except they are mostly helicopters. So yes if he wants to fly a helicopter than Army is the way to go. If he wants fixed wings, then Army isnt the way to go

I am curious to if this is true or not.. I have heard Army uses more Warrant officers to do their flying?
Air Force has largest fleet of fixed wings in the US military.
 

New@This

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I expected that they were mostly helicopter pilots. How hard it is to get a pilot spot out of AROTC at VMI?
 
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