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The Navigator Badge is a military qualification badge of the United States Armed Forces which was first created during the Second World War. The current USAF badge is designated by Air Force Instructions as the Navigator/Observer Badge and is issued to rated officers in both rating categories. In 2009, it was renamed as the Combat Systems Officer badge.
The badge recognizes the Aeronautical Rating of Navigator, now Combat Systems Officer. The original Navigator badge was a successor to the Observer Badge, which was issued to military aviation navigators in the 1920s and 1930s. With an increase in aircraft technology, however, the Navigator, Bombardier, Engineer, and Gunner badges were created to recognize the advanced training and qualifications required of various aircrew members.
The original Navigator badge was issued by the U.S. Army Air Forces and consisted of an armillary sphere centered between two wings. The badge was similar to the Aviator Badge and the Aircrew Badge. On July 26, 1947, the U.S. Air Force became a separate Branch of Service in the U.S. armed forces. and in late 1951 the Aircraft Observer, Navigator, and Bombardier badges were replaced with a single design, with the Air Force shield centered between two wings. At the same time, the aeronautical ratings of Navigator and Bombardier were merged into a single rating. The Aircraft Observer rating continued for Electronic Warfare Officers (EWOs), but eventually EWOs were awarded the Navigator-Bombardier aeronautical rating.
The current USAF Navigator/Combat Systems Officer/Observer Badge is issued in three degrees: Basic, Senior, and Master. The degree of the Navigator/Combat Systems Officer/Observer Badge is determined by years of flying service in the Air Force and by logged hours of flight time or flying duty assignment time. The degrees are annotated by a star alone (senior) and a star and wreath (master) centered above the badge.
There is also an astronaut version of the badge for those who have flown the NASA Space Shuttle and/or served on the International Space Station. Like its pilot astronaut counterpart, the Navigator/Observer Astronaut Badge is modified by the addition of the astronaut "shooting star" logo over the USAF shield on the wings. Navigator Astronauts or Combat Systems Officer Astronauts are those officers who have previously flown USAF aircraft as aeronautically rated Navigators / Combat Systems Officers and subsequently qualify as astronauts. A third variant of this same insignia is the Observer Astronaut. Today, the only personnel awarded the Observer rating are otherwise unrated U.S. Air Force officers who complete NASA Mission Specialist (astronaut) training and subsequently fly in space.
For Navy and Marine Corps officers, the equivalent of the Navigator Badge / Combat Systems Officer badge is known as the Naval Flight Officer insignia and is similar to the Naval Aviator insignia for pilots, being differentiated by two crossed fouled anchors behind the insignia's United States shield, versus the single upright fouled anchor of their USN, USMC and USCG pilot counterparts. The Coast Guard briefly had Naval Flight Officers when they operated E-2 Hawkeye aircraft bailed from the Navy. There is also an astronaut version of the badge for those who have flown the NASA Space Shuttle and/or served on the International Space Station. Like its Naval Aviator Astronaut counterpart, the Naval Flight Officer Astronaut Badge is modified by the addition of the astronaut "shooting star" logo over the US shield on the wings.
The Marine Corps also issues the Marine Aerial Navigator insignia to enlisted personnel trained as navigators for the KC-130 and he Coast Guard the Coast Guard Aerial Navigator insignia to enlisted personnel trained as navigators in the HC-130. Unlike their USAF counterpart, the Navy, Marine Corps and Coast Guard aviation insignia have no basic, senior or master/command degrees. The Army has no equivalent to the Navigator Badge.