History of the Naval Aviation Ordnance Rating

Aviation Ordnanceman (AO)

Aviation Ordnancemen are aircraft armament (weapons) specialists in charge of storing, servicing, inspecting and handling of all types of weapons and ammunition carried on Navy aircraft. These technicians may also volunteer to fly as naval aircrew. Aircrew performs numerous in-flight duties and operates aircraft systems in turbojet, helicopter, or propeller aircraft.
The duties performed by AOs include:
  • Inspect, maintains and repair aircraft mechanical and electrical armament/ordnance systems;
  • Service aircraft guns and accessories;
  • Stow, assembles and load aviation ammunition including aerial mines, torpedoes, missiles and rockets;
  • Service bomb, missile and rocket releasing and launching devices;
  • Load supplementary munitions;
  • Assemble, tests and maintain air-launched guided missiles;
  • Supervise operation of aviation ordnance shops, armories and stowage facilities;
Working Environment
AOs perform their duties at sea on flight decks and ashore in hangars, on flight lines at air stations, or in shops under various environmental conditions. They work closely with others, do mostly physical work and require little supervision.



The Navy's Aviation Ordnance rating really began on April 9, 1915 when a Chief Gunners Mate and a Chief Turret Captain, along with several other mechanics, were sent to Pensacola, Florida to work on what would be the beginning of aircraft armament and ordnance systems.

The Navy accepted its first aircraft, a Curtiss Triad (Hydroplane), on August 9, 1911. Early bombing tests were held in January and February of 1913, at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, and in July 1914 at Indian Head, Maryland. Twenty-two months later, in May 1916, the development of a gyroscopic bomb-sight was initiated. On April 6, 1917, at which time the United States entered into World War One, the inventory of the fledging air arm consisted of the following: 45 seaplanes, six flying boats, three land planes, and one airship. By September, 1917 two types of bombs were in service with a third type coming into production, weighing 163, 270, and 216 pounds respectively. Successful tests of machine guns were conducted between January and May, 1918 at Pensacola, Florida.

In March of 1918, the Aviation Ordnance (AVORD) sub-section in the Bureau of Ordnance, became a separate unit. Previously it served as a division of the Surface Gun Mount section, dating back to the early months of the war. As a separate group, they were given cognizance over the procurement and technical aspects of machine guns, including mounts, sights, fittings and ammunition. Other aviation ordnance items falling within AVORD cognizance in 1918 were larger caliber guns, bombs, bomb racks, bomb sights, pyrotechnic signaling devices, air launched torpedoes, aircraft torpedo launching equipment, and training devices which include miniature practice bombs.

Gunner's Mate (Aviation) 1918-1921

On August 12, 1918 the Commandant of the Pensacola, Florida Naval Air Station recommended the establishment of the Gunner's Mate (Aviation) - G.M. (A) rating. The commandant emphasized that men doing such duty had no chance for advancement as they did not have the occasion to better themselves in the specialty of the ratings held. The commandant listed the ordnance items in which personnel should qualify to obtain the G.M.(A) rating, including the ability to act as instructors and armorers. Although rating badges (winged crossed gun barrels) for Gunner's Mate (Aviation) existed, official directives authorizing the wearing of same did not exist. The specialty mark was never included in the various changes issued between 1917 and 1921 to uniform regulations. The rating of Gunner's Mate (Aviation), which extended from Third Class through Chief Petty Officer, was officially listed in Bureau of Navigation Circular Letter (BNCL) 158-18 of August 30, 1918.

Gunner's Mate (Assigned to Aviation) 1921-1926

By an Act of Congress, approved June 4, 1920, the Secretary of the Navy was authorized, at his discretion, to establish such grades and ratings as necessary for the proper administration of the enlisted personnel of the Navy and Marine Corps. The Gunner's Mate (Aviation) rating was not included in this listing. An aviation designation for Gunner's Mates who had qualified as aviation armament and munitions technicians, and were attached to an aviation activity, were so identified by appropriate entries in their service records. These Gunner's Mates functioned as the Aviation Ordnancemen until mid 1926.

Aviation Ordnanceman 1926- Present

The Aviation Ordnanceman rating was established at all four petty officer grades of Chief, First, Second and Third Class authorizing 14 billets on March 2, 1926 as a rating within the Aviation Branch . These 14 AOs stared one of the finest traditions of "CAN DO" ever known to the aviation community. The Aviation Ordnanceman rating was filled initially from qualified personnel serving primarily with the ratings of Gunner's Mate and Torpedoman (assigned to aviation). The Aviation Ordnanceman specialty mark, a winged flaming spherical shell, was incorporated into Uniform Regulations in January 1927.

The Aviation Ordnanceman family of ratings since 1918 have encompassed the following: 

Gunner's Mate (Aviation) GM(A) 1918-1921
Gunner's Mate (assigned to aviation) GM 1921-1926
Aviation Ordnanceman AOM 1926-1948
Aviation Ordnanceman B (Aviation Bombsight Mechanic) AOMB 1943-1944
Aviation Ordnanceman B (Aviation Bombsight & Fire Control Mechanic) AFC 1945-1948
Aviation Ordnanceman T (Aviation Turret Mechanic) AOMT 1943-1948
Aviation Ordnanceman F (Fire Control) AOF 1948-1955
Aviation Ordnanceman T (Turrets) AOT 1948-1958
Aviation Ordnanceman U (Utility) AOU 1948-1958
Aviation Ordnanceman AO 1948-present

November 5, 1958 marked the promotion of 15 Senior Chief Aviation Ordnancemen (AOCS) E-8 and two to 
Master Chief Aviation Ordnancemen (AOCM) E-9.

Load Plan

Arming Aircraft