NMS Squadron Guide: How to Recruit & Upgrade No Man’s Sky Pilots

Form your No Man's Sky squadron, upgrade your pilots, and fly with good company!

Recruiting a No Man’s Sky squadron is easy. As of the Outlaws Update, you can technically do it near the start of any save file — or at least make the attempt; it’s everything else around recruiting, using, and upgrading pilots that’s a bit more obscure. That’s why we’ve gone and made this quick guide to NMS squadrons and how to deal with them! Let’s take a look at what you need to know.

No Man's Sky Squadron Pilot Recruitment Screen

How to Recruit a Squadron in No Man’s Sky

Let’s get the simplest step out of the way first. While the game doesn’t immediately tell you it’s possible, you can recruit nearly any random character with a ship into your NMS squadron. You just need to be able to speak with them. This most commonly means the aliens you meet on space stations, but you can find pilots on planetary outposts as well! Human players are obviously out (though you can always just fly with them normally in multiplayer), and NPC vendors, like the Cartographer, are also restricted.

The confusing thing is that, by default, you have a maximum squadron size of zero. The upper limit is four (five if you include yourself), but you need to make space for the pilots first. All of this means you also won’t be able to recruit past your current limit. The option to recruit will remain available whenever you talk to an NPC. However, the game will simply say you don’t have a freighter or that your squadron is already full even if you have no pilots recruited yet.

Once you unlock a home for your pilots, just click the “Recruit lifeform to squadron” dialogue option listed below trading and offering to buy a ship.

No Man's Sky Squadron Slots

How to Increase Your NMS Squadron Size

This brings us to the second point: how to make room for a squadron. Once again, you can’t actually do this by default despite being able to ask pilots onto your team from the start. You need a freighter first — the sort you own for yourself, for the record, not a Derelict Freighter.

Most longtime NMS players will know about these already. Freighters are a pretty essential part of the game these days, and they practically throw themselves at you during normal play. The capital ships sort of act like mobile bases which follow you through the stars (or transport you and your fleet through them).

To unlock one, you just need to find it, which happens automatically as you progress through any NMS save usually after just a few warp jumps or so. There are also special circumstances that might award you a freighter in different ways, such as Expeditions. Expedition 7: Leviathan, for example, always starts players with a freighter.

No Man's Sky Freighter

Once you get funneled into your first freighter distress signal (and kill the pirates assaulting the big ship), you can choose to take control over it. For your first freighter, this process is always free, but following freighters cost Units to purchase.

With all of that out of the way, you can finally upgrade your squadron size. Remember: you’re upgrading from “zero” to “one,” so you likely won’t get a full squad right away unless you have a lot of Nanites. Every squadron slot requires this special currency. The first takes just 800 Nanites, but the second knocks that price up to 3,500, and so on. Every subsequent squadron slot costs more Nanites.

The prices break down like this:

  1. 800 Nanites
  2. 3,500 Nanites
  3. 7,500 Nanites
  4. 10,000 Nanites

In case you didn’t want to do the math: that’s a total of 21,800 Nanites for a full NMS squadron. Before you factor in the further cost of upgrades, that is.

No Man's Sky Manage Fleet Menu

We should also probably mention where you purchase these squadron slots. The location is found on your freighter, yes, but it’s specifically on the bridge. You can find the option at the “Manage Fleet” terminal inside — it’s just shy of the short staircase leading up to your freighter captain.

At this terminal, you can indeed manage your fleet, which in this case refers to your frigates. Those are support ships housed alongside your freighter that run special missions for you. These are useful but don’t directly help you in battle. Below that, however, is the option to “Manage Squadron.” Click on it to view the squadron pilot menu.

No Man's Sky Squadron Upgrades

How to Upgrade NMS Squadron Pilots

The last thing to do inside the “Manage Squadron” menu besides simply dismissing pilots is to upgrade your pilots. This also costs a rising number of Nanites for each rank. The upside is that it increases the squadmate’s stats, such as strength and marksmanship.

As a quick word of warning: dismissing a pilot does not refund the Nanites you invested in them. The game also doesn’t throw up a warning message when you’re about to send them off the way it does when you’re about to delete an entire save. If you remove them from the squadron (by pressing and holding the Middle Mouse Button or R3 on a controller), they’re gone.

Of course, you can get them back by simply quitting the game. NMS doesn’t save on your freighter until you get in and out of a starship. You can use this same trick to “undo” a lot of mistakes in the game, such as refunding the Nanites you spent on a pilot upgrade that you no longer want.

No Man's Sky Squadron Combat

How Do Man’s Sky Squadrons Work?

Once you have a squadron, there’s not a lot left to do. The A.I. allies will warp to your aid automatically during starship combat. If you want to dismiss them or summon them when you’re not in combat, you can do so from the Quick Menu. Just select “Summon Freighter and Squadron” — the same option you use to, well, summon your freighter. Now, it should have a second tab that lets you call in or dismiss your squadron.

You can see all this for yourself by gunning down the nearest pirate ship. Activate your pulse engine and wait for your shipboard computer to tell you a hostile presence is nearby. Change course and fly to the bounty target. If you’re in first-person mode, you should see a green blip (or four) on your radar — those are your squadmates! They’ll fly around and help you automatically by firing on enemy vessels.


And that’s really it for the No Man’s Sky squadron system! We hope this helped set you up with your own wing of helpers to continue flying the (un)friendly skies. Best of luck leveling them up!