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The Differences Between the Air Force IFT and Navy Special Warfare PST

Stew smith

The Differences Between the Air Force and Navy Special Warfare Initial Fitness Test (IFT) and Physical Screening Test (PST) 


There are far more similarities than differences with these two fitness tests and follow on selection training, but there are some differences that have confused people throughout the years especially as both groups tend to change names, order of exercises, and standards quite often. 

Training for both fitness tests as well as the follow on Prep Courses, Assessment and Selection programs are near identical with a few difference - for instance. 

Both require a swim, run, pullups, pushups, and situps, but in different order / rest periods, standards, and the Air Force uses 500m as a distance and the Navy uses 500yds.

Make sure you know what the length of the pool is measured in as you may not be able to swim 10 laps to get your test completed.  For instance 450m = 500yds so if in a meter pool, the Navy only swims 9 laps. If in a yard pool, the Air Force candidate needs to swim almost 11 laps (546 yds = 500m). 

The Air Force can also use the freestyle stroke if candidates prefer.  The Navy is limited to Breast Stroke, Elementary Side Stroke, Combat Side Stroke which is just a modified side stroke with a cool nickname. I have always referred to it as the Combat Swimmer Stroke. 

See chart for distinctions:  PST and IFTStandards as of 2020

*IFT is the new name for the Air Force PAST (old test name)

Minimum Initial Fitness Test (IFT/PST) for Air Force Special Warfare and Navy Special Warfare (SEALS)


PJ, CCT, SR, TACP Scores


Navy SEAL Candidates Scores

Pullups 2 min


500yd swim


Situps 2min


Pushups 2 min


Pushups 2 min


Situps 2 min


1.5 mile run


Pullups 2 min


2 x 25m u/w swim




500m swim




The most important similarity with the PT Test and the follow on training programs is you cannot be a good student with these minimum standards. These are JUST MINIMUM standards however, no one makes it through on minimum standards.  You need to be better. In fact, I personally would strive for the following standards on either test:

500yd / 500m swim – 8:20 (a meter or yard per second pace)
Pushups 80+
Situps 80+
Pullups 20+
1.5 mile run – 9 minutes or less

*Note - these are my recommendations and not the Navy or Air Force recommendations, but see average and competitive scores on their recruiting sites and discussion boards and you will see. 

See links for official pages with scores needed for other pre-enlistment options that are part of Special Warfare / Special Operations:

* AF EOD and SERE have different standards
* Navy SWCC, Diver, EOD, and Air Rescue have different standards

The Air Force requires 2 x 25m underwater swims for the IFT - the Navy PST does not. But, BUD/S and PJ training will require a 50m underwater swim during the early weeks of training. 

As you can see the order of the events is different therefore requiring a different strategy for both. Swimming first then doing all the other events as in the Navy requires practice, perfect technique, and a fueling strategy if you want to have energy for the PT and run events. 

Transition times can be helpful with being recovered for the next event, When you practice your tests or arrange your workouts, consider this test order to help you get used to the demands of the events.  See Navy SEAL PST Clinic for how I recommend people to create strategies for this test. The same type of strategy would apply for the IFT with similar hydrating, transitioning movements, and fueling for the events. 

The Air Force transition time from the land to the pool is 30 minutes. The transition from the PT exercises to the run is 10 minutes. 

The Navy transition time from the pool to the land is 10 minutes. Same for transitioning from the PT exercises to the run. 

The Combat Swimmer Stroke with Fins

NAVY Method - You can use the arms to pull and can be timed with your breathing.  Top leg always goes forward when doing flutterkicks / scissor kicks though you may find the smaller flutterkicks work better than a big scissor kick and little flutters in between.  Your choice how you do to.  


Air Force Method - You use a Lead Arm / Trail Arm Side Stroke Method so you cannot move your arms during this LATA Side Stroke swim in the Air Force. 

Pool Skills

At both BUD/s and the AFSW Assessment and Selection Courses and especially following training (especially PJ), you will be doing a lot of swimming (with / without fins), no hand treading, weighted treading, underwater swims, and some hardcore water competency training.  Drown proofing, treading, multiple underwater swims, and snorkel buddy breathing are the killers at Air Force training. Whereas at BUDS, you will also have drownproofing, instructor life saving (aka underwater wrestling), underwater knot tying on breath holds (15ft deep), and as you master SCUBA diving in second phase, you will have Pool Comp (OC8) which is also  underwater wrestling to a degree on SCUBA.  

Both programs (Air Force and Navy Special Warfare) have recruiting programs that will test your abilities while in the Delayed Entry Program (DEP) and you should be able to crush these tests with some basic preparation and testing focus.  Once you have passed the test, now you need to get good enough to be well over the minimum standards as well as focus on other events you will encounter such as longer swims, pool skills, longer runs, rucks, and other load bearing activities. 

Special Ops Level Tactical Fitness Training Ideas

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Getting TO and THROUGH Training (Two Phases of Tactical Fitness)


Who is Stew Smith? Coach, Trainer, Author, PodcasterI'm the former Navy SEAL that special ops candidates go to for books, ebooks and online coaching to prepare themselves to get to and through intense tactical assessment and selection programs and qualify for service in their chosen tactical profession.  See More at

Where to Find More Information About Optimal Performance Training Programs

When you start training again, consider the seasonal tactical fitness model.  I call it A WAY to train and obviously not the only way to train. But it offers the opportunity to never neglect your weaknesses, helps with flexibility and mobility, but will also put you at a level of physical abilities where you are happy with your overall ability to just about anything. We have a systems where the seasons dictate our training. When it is nicer outside, we tend to run and do more calisthenics.  When it is colder and not so nice, we lift more, run, less, and still maintain our outdoor activities with shorter runs and rucks. Check it out: Seasonal Tactical Fitness Periodization System.  

My most recent programs that walk you through these four cycles with 12 weeks of each season in two programs. 

These Seasonal Tactical Fitness BLOCK Periodization programs will walk you through 4 x 4 weeks cycles with 16 weeks of each season in two programs. (32 total weeks)

The Specific Military / Special Ops Physical Fitness Workouts Where Optimal Performance Will Be Tested Each Day

Navy SEAL Workout Phase 1
Navy SEAL Workout Phase 2 - 3
Navy SEAL Workout Phase 4  Grinder PT
Navy SWCC Workout

Army PFT Workout (Prep For Rucking, OPAT, ACFT)
Army Special Forces / Ranger Workout
Army Air Assault School Workout
Army Airborne Workout


Advanced Running Program - Special Ops Supplement Plan
USMC OCS / TBS Workout


The Combat Conditioning Workout
Air Force PJ / CCT Workout  Battlefield Airman Prep Course
The UBRR Upper Body Round Robin Workout / Spec Ops version


The Coast Guard Rescue Swimmer / Navy SAR Workout
The Service Academy Workout (West Point, Navy, Air Force Academy)
The Navy, Air Force, Marine Corp Boot Camp Workout


The Law Enforcement Physical Fitness Workouts

The FBI Academy Workout  |   FBI Workout Vol 2  
The DEA Workout
The FLETC Workout - Ace the PEB
The PFT Bible: Pushups, Sit-ups, 1.5 Mile Run
The Fire Fighter Workout - Ace the CPAT


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The dashboard below has the links to all the information, archives, videos, and links to workouts, podcasts, live Q and A lessons. 

Consider this! - A Membership Program and Gain Access to Exclusive Content
(click for Fitness Club Dashboard - members only)

Best of all, if you have questions, email Stew Smith himself (  Join the tactical fitness group discussions, latest articles, videos, podcasts at the Stew Smith Tactical Fitness Training Closed Group on Facebook.


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