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Difference between WSO and RIO

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  • Member since
    June, 2013
  • From: Bay Area, CA
Difference between WSO and RIO
Posted by Reaper420 on Friday, February 01, 2019 7:10 PM

Just curious, and maybe you ex fighter pilots can help, what is the difference between a WSO (Weapon Systems Officer) and a RIO (Radar Intercept officer)? Dont they both perform the same functions? Was a RIO specific to the F14 and WSO the F18? Does a WSO focus on targets and engaging them while the pilot handles the manoeuvring? Just curious as I honestly dont know.

Kick the tires and light the fires!

  • Member since
    March, 2010
  • From: MN
Posted by Nathan T on Friday, February 01, 2019 7:22 PM

Same thing, only WSO is an Air Force term and RIO is a Navy term. I’m sure there’s a more thorough explanation though...

 

 

  • Member since
    January, 2017
  • From: Colorado Springs
Posted by mawright20 on Saturday, February 02, 2019 1:31 AM
I second the previous comment...same thing, different wording.
  • Member since
    August, 2005
  • From: Sydney, Australia
Posted by Phil_H on Saturday, February 02, 2019 2:06 AM

I seem to recall reading somewhere that the Navy changed over from RIO to WSO following the introduction of the F/A-18F Super Hornet.

I believe the tem RIO has its origins in the F-4 Phantom era and stayed with the F-14 as its primary role was an interceptor. Later F-14 variants added strike capability but by then "RIO" had become entrenched.

It seems like the term WSO is more appropriate for the Super Hornet as it was designed as a multi-role aircraft from the outset.

Whether a WSO or a RIO, a Navy backseater is also known as a NFO (Naval Flight Officer). 

 

  • Member since
    August, 2005
  • From: Mansfield, TX
Posted by EdGrune on Saturday, February 02, 2019 8:04 AM

Phil_H

Whether a WSO or a RIO, a Navy backseater is also known as a NFO (Naval Flight Officer).  

Also known as GIB - Guy In Backseat

The GIB in Legacy Hornet B and D models was also a WSO

  • Member since
    March, 2010
  • From: MN
Posted by Nathan T on Saturday, February 02, 2019 8:29 AM

Also, per the Air Force, the GIB would be a Pilot, whereas the Navy RIO wouldn’t have had Pilot training, correct?

 

 

  • Member since
    August, 2005
  • From: Sydney, Australia
Posted by Phil_H on Saturday, February 02, 2019 9:18 AM

EdGrune

 

 
Phil_H

Whether a WSO or a RIO, a Navy backseater is also known as a NFO (Naval Flight Officer).  

 

Also known as GIB - Guy In Backseat

The GIB in Legacy Hornet B and D models was also a WSO

 

Is the GIB in a Growler still a WSO or is there a Navy equivalent of EWO (Electronic Warfare Officer)?

On another related note, I've read/heard the air force GIB referred to as a "pitter" (as well as GIB) and in a Weasel, EWO or "bear". 

  • Member since
    July, 2004
  • From: Sunny So. Cal... The OC
Posted by stikpusher on Saturday, February 02, 2019 10:42 AM

WSO originated as an Air Force term. RIO was strictly a Navy term from the F-4 days. The Air Force originally had two rated pilots in their Phantoms, completes with flight controls, while the Navy back seater was not. The RIO was carried over into the F-14. 

Has the Navy officially adapt the WSO term? If so, it may have something to do with the multi role job of air to ground systems such as lasers and FLIRs in addition to strictly air to air sensors & systems of radar and long range aerial ID optics. 

On the A-6, the systems operater was called the B/N, Bombardier/Navigator. When the A-6 was phased out, the F-14 took the medium attack role. Which now had rolled over to the  twin seat Super Hornets.

 

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  • Member since
    January, 2017
  • From: Colorado Springs
Posted by mawright20 on Sunday, February 03, 2019 3:29 AM
Incorrect. In the USAF, the GIB/WSO is generally a Navigator with further training as a Weapons System Operator. They are not necessarily a pilot. In some aircraft such as F-16 B/D, the backseater may be a second pilot, but in aircraft such as the F-4/-15, they are Nav/WSOs.
  • Member since
    July, 2004
  • From: Sunny So. Cal... The OC
Posted by stikpusher on Sunday, February 03, 2019 8:09 AM

mawright20
Incorrect. In the USAF, the GIB/WSO is generally a Navigator with further training as a Weapons System Operator. They are not necessarily a pilot. In some aircraft such as F-16 B/D, the backseater may be a second pilot, but in aircraft such as the F-4/-15, they are Nav/WSOs.
 

When the Air Force first started flying the Phantom, they usually put a rated pilot in the back seat. There are many tales of this during Vietnam. Later, especially as pilot losses grew due to combat attrition, non pilot rated aviators were put into the back seat. Combat experiences during Rolling Thunder also showed that having two pilots in the same aircraft was not optimal. Having two rated pilots in the Phantom was supposedly one of the factors in USAF practice of awarding each pilot half a credit for a kill in air combat, instead of the later practice of awarding each credit for a full kill. 

 

F is for FIRE, That burns down the whole town!

U is for URANIUM... BOMBS!

N is for NO SURVIVORS...

       - Plankton

LSM

 

  • Member since
    July, 2004
  • From: Sunny So. Cal... The OC
Posted by stikpusher on Sunday, February 03, 2019 9:51 AM

Here is a link to Joe Baugher’s page on the F-4C and having the rear seater as a second pilot

http://www.joebaugher.com/usaf_fighters/f4_7.html

 

F is for FIRE, That burns down the whole town!

U is for URANIUM... BOMBS!

N is for NO SURVIVORS...

       - Plankton

LSM

 

  • Member since
    January, 2009
  • From: hamburg michigan
Posted by fermis on Sunday, February 03, 2019 12:38 PM

Nathan T

Also, per the Air Force, the GIB would be a Pilot, whereas the Navy RIO wouldn’t have had Pilot training, correct?

 

I can't speak for the AF or Navy...but...

My older bro is a WSO on F-18D's in the Marines. IIRC, he did have some pilot training, right along with the guys that were going to become pilots. He didn't get a lot of training, not enough to be considered a pilot, just enough that he could at least control the plane in the air. Not that it'd do him any good...they take the stick out of the back, so he couldn't fly the plane anyway.

 For all intents and purposes, once in the air, it is HIS airplane, and he directs the pilot on what to do (as I understand it). He does not physically drop or launch any ordnance himself, he gives the command to the pilot to release the hate, while he keeps the laser on target and monitors everything else.

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