The RIO or Radar Intercept Officer
A normal mission for any fighter aircraft is to intercept an airborne target.
To intercept a target it is necessary to find it on radar.
Then calculations must be made by someone as the best angle to fly, to intercept the target using radar and to get into firing position.
The US Navy F-4 Phantom II relied on radar-guided missiles for offense and required a Radar Intercept Officer (RIO) to operate its advanced sensors and weapons systems. The RIO was trained on how best to intercept a fast moving target as fast as possible.
What happens if a pilot and Rio (or a Weapon Systems Officer, WSO) really dislike each other? Can they work effectively together or would they be assigned different people?
US Navy F-4 pilot fist fight with his RIO
‘Yes, for a brief time I did fly with a RIO that I did not like, and who was not very good either. Nevertheless, I had no problem working with him, even though he was below average. Every mission requires good teamwork, regardless of personalities.
‘Anecdote: I flew most all my Vietnam missions with the same RIO, call sign “TA”. He was great, and we made a very good team. While we were not really close friends, we were in fact, always good friends.
‘One night after flying another combat mission, and secretly partying in a junior officer bunk room on the carrier, we somehow for some unknown reason, we got into a fist fight. The others there pulled us apart before we caused any real damage.’
‘The next day we flew together like nothing had ever happened, and I still did not know the cause of the fight. Nor did he. Upon reflection, I think it was just the cumulative stress of many combat missions and it got to us for some reason. We never had any problem ever, after that night.’
Photo credit: U.S. Navy