How Hard Is It To Become A Fighter Pilot?

There are a limited number of places that offer training programs for aspiring pilots. And even then, you will need to go through years of rigorous training.

A career path that involves flying a fighter jet requires determination, physical strength and even a good portion of luck.

How Hard Is It To Become A Fighter Pilot

If you are determined that you want to be a fighter pilot, then it is definitely possible (see also “Can A Woman Be A Pilot?“). But how hard is it to become a fighter pilot in the military.

We find out what you need to become a fighter jet pilot in the US military, including the US Air Force, Navy and Marine Corps.

What Are Your Chances Of Flying A Fighter Jet?

Fighter jets are well known for their high speed and extensive training requirements. So the chances of you actually getting trained on such a craft may be slim but it’s possible.

There are three ways of becoming a fighter jet pilot. You will need to join any of these three branches of the US military:

  • US Air Force (USAF)
  • Navy (USNA)
  • US Marine Corps (USMC)

All three of these branches fly different fighter jets, including F-16 Fighting Falcon and F-22 Raptor.

It’s important to know that to fly these aircraft you will need a good portion of physical endurance, intelligence and luck, as well as plenty of determination to go through the tough training program.

US Air Force

The first step in becoming a jet pilot for the USAF is joining the US Air Force. This means passing a battery of tests at the Basic Military Training (BMT) stage of military service.

The BMT course consists of physical fitness assessments, combat skills training and other subjects like English and math.

If you pass all these tests, you will move onto advanced training as a cadet in the United States Air Force Academy in Colorado Springs.

After graduating from there, you’ll have to complete another five-year program after which you’ll receive your wings as a second lieutenant.

Once you’ve been through this process, you’re ready to join the elite group of fighter pilots who make up the US Navy’s Blue Angels flight team.

US Air Force Pilot Requirements

To become a fighter pilot with the USAF, you must meet the following requirements:

  • Be between 5’4” and 6’5” tall
  • No worse than 20/70 vision
  • Pass a medical exam
  • Complete basic training
  • Cannot be colorblind
  • Aged between 18 and 33
  • Previous flight experience

How Long Does It Take To Become A Pilot In The Air Force?

Becoming a fighter pilot in the air force is no easy task. However, if you follow the right path, you could potentially make it into the top ranks of the US military within just a few years.

You’ll start out by completing the Basic Military Training (BMP), which lasts around four months. During this time, you’ll learn how to march, shoot guns (see also “Do Pilots Carry Guns?“) and perform various physical exercises.

You’ll also undergo several weeks of technical training in order to prepare you for the rest of your education. After that, you’ll attend the US Air Force Academy in Colorado.

At the academy, you’ll study for two more years until you graduate and receive your wings as a 2nd Lieutenant.

If you pass all of these exams, then you can apply to join the US Navy’s Blue Angels flight team. Once you’re accepted, you’ll spend the next five years studying towards your goal of becoming a fighter pilot.

This makes it all in all a commitment to the Air Force of 10 years.



To become a naval aviator, you must first join the U.S. Naval Reserve. After completing basic training, you will attend flight school for six months.

You will learn how to fly various planes, including the Grumman F8F Bearcat, North American T-28 Trojan, and the Cessna UC-78 Bobcat.

You will also undergo rigorous training on weapons systems and tactics. Once you’ve completed all this, you will graduate with your wings and become a commissioned officer in the U.S. Navy.

Navy Pilot Requirements

To become an air force pilot in the navy, you must meet the similar requirements as those of the USAF.

However, they are much more lenient, and Navy fighter pilots can also wear contact lenses or glasses.

These requirements include:

  • No worse than 20/40 vision
  • Not be colorblind
  • Be between 5’2” and 6’5” tall
  • Weight between 103 and 245 pounds
  • BA degree

How Long Does It Take To Become A Pilot In The Navy?

The entire process of becoming a naval aviator takes about 2 years. During this time, you will attend classes on navigation, gunnery, and aeronautics.

The training will also teach you how to fly a T-6 Texan (or similar) as well as survival training.

US Marines

Becoming a marine pilot requires you to enlist in the United States Marine Corps. Upon completion of recruit training, you will be sent to Officer Candidate School (OCS).

Here, you will learn about leadership, discipline, and teamwork. OCS graduates will then be sent to one of four schools to train them into fighter pilots.

These include the following:

  • Marine Attack Squadron 121 (VMAT-121)
  • Marine Fighter Attack Squadron 232 (VMFA-232)
  • Marine Tactical Electronic Warfare Squadron 133 (VMTEW-133)
  • Marine Medium Helicopter Squadron 367 (HMM-367)

Once you have graduated from one of these schools, you can begin a career as a fighter pilot for the US Marine Corps.

Is It Easier To Become An Air Force Or Navy Pilot?

If you want to become an air force or navy pilot, you should know that both require very specific qualifications.

However, as the Air Force does require previous flight experience, it is slightly easier to become a Navy jet pilot.


As you can see, there are many ways to become a military jet pilot.

If you choose to pursue any of these options, you will need to complete extensive training before being able to take part in combat missions.

However, all of this is possible if you are determined to go through with it.

Jacob Stern
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