In a little-noted press release on December 9, the Navy announced a new Warrant Officer program. The program will train some 450 Aerial Vehicle Operators, or AVOs, under the new 737X designation. These warrant officers will fly Boeing’s MQ-25 Stingray, which is slated to enter the fleet as a refueling aircraft in 2024. The Stingray is a aerial refueling drone that entered the fleet last year.

The Navy has opened this program to currently enlisted members and “Street to Fleet” applicants. This program will be in addition to the Navy’s long-standing Chief Warrant Officer Program. The latter is limited to qualified senior enlisted personnel who have served at least 12 years and are chief petty officers (E-7 through E-9), and E-6 personnel who are eligible for E-7.

In addition to the CWO Program, the Navy has a Limited Officer Program for senior enlisted personnel. LDOs are technically oriented officers who perform duties in​ specific occupational fields with strong managerial skills. They tend to remain in this specialty throughout their entire career. The traditional warrant officer specialty areas are 71XX – CWO Surface Warfare, 72XX – CWO Submarine Warfare, 73XX – Aviation Warfare, and 75XX – CWO Staff Corps.

The Warrant Officer program seeks younger candidates without the prerequisites of long service and rank. This signals that the Navy is making a long-term investment in the MQ-25 Stingray program.