Navy Aviation Boatswain Equipment Mate – ABE

These sailors oversee equipment used by Navy aircraft

Aviation boatswain's mates refuel an AV-8B Harrier jet aircraft.
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A Navy aviation boatswain's equipment mate helps to launch and recover the Navy's aircraft. Their duties include preparing and fueling planes for take-off and landing. The boatswain's mate is one of the oldest of all the Navy's jobs—known as ratings by the military. The job, established in 1944, has been part of this branch of the U.S. military since the Navy's inception in 1775.

There are several different categories of Boatswain's Mates, which are separated by their specific duties. The boatswain's equipment mate (ABE) is responsible, as the name suggests, for overseeing equipment used in naval aviation.


These sailors conduct organizational maintenance on hydraulic and steam catapults, barricades, arresting gear and arresting gear engines. They operate equipment such as catapult launch and arresting consoles, firing panels, water brakes, blast deflectors, and cooling panels.

And like all Aviation Boatswain's Mates in the Navy, ABE's also perform a variety of other duties related to launching and recovery of aircraft.

Working Environment

Most of the work in this rating is performed outdoors on the deck of aircraft carriers, in all weather conditions, in fast-paced and often potentially hazardous environments. The ABE works closely with others in aviation ratings.

Training and Qualifications

After boot camp at the Great Lakes Naval Training Center—outside of Chicago, Illinois—these sailors spend 39 calendar days in A-school (technical training) in Pensacola, Florida. 

To be eligible for this rating, recruits need a combined score of 184 on the verbal (VE), arithmetic (AR), math knowledge (MK) and auto and shop information (AS) segments of the Armed Services Vocational Aptitude Battery (ASVAB) tests.

There's no Department of Defense security clearance required for this rating, but you must have vision correctable to 20/20 and normal color perception (no colorblindness). This is one of the ratings where a waiver of the vision requirements is not permitted. 

You'll also need to have normal hearing, which means the average hearing threshold level in frequencies of 3000hz 4000hz 5000hz 6000hz must be less than 30db, with no level greater than 45db in any one frequency. If the hearing level exceeds these limits, you won't qualify for this rating.

As with all jobs in the Navy and other branches of the U.S. military, promotions in this rating are linked to its staffing level. Sailors in undermanned ratings will thus have more potential opportunities for promotions than those in undermanned ratings. 

Sea/Shore Rotation

  • First Sea Tour: 60 months
  • First Shore Tour: 36 months
  • Second Sea Tour: 60 months
  • Second Shore Tour: 36 months
  • Third Sea Tour: 48 months
  • Third Shore Tour: 36 months
  • Fourth Sea Tour: 48 months
  • Forth Shore Tour: 36 months

Sea tours and shore tours for sailors that have completed four sea tours will be 36 months at sea, followed by 36 months ashore until retirement.

ABE is a sea-intensive community. Manning conditions at sea may require the need to request sea tour extension or shore tour curtailments to ensure all sea duty billets are filled.