Weapon Systems Operator
Job description: Use specialist skills, coupled with operational flying as a member of a highly trained crew.
Pay after training: £35,410
(including flying pay)
Joining age: 17.5 – 32
Category: NC Aircrew
Usual service: 12 years
Open to: men or women
Similar civilian jobs:
- Telecommunications specialist
- Radar technologist
- Crewman on a civilian helicopter
- Air cargo specialist
Qualifications you need: 5 GCSE/SCEs at Grade C/2 minimum or equivalent, including English language and a grade B/1 in maths.
Qualifications you can gain: A-levels, degree or Masters degree.
Nationality: Citizen of the UK or the Republic of Ireland, or a Commonwealth citizen since birth.
The role of a Weapon Systems Operator (WSOp) is one of the most demanding in the Royal Air Force. It is an exciting job, with a large degree of responsibility, and Non-Commissioned Aircrew (NCA) perform the role of a valued aircrew member in a professional team. Having completed the Non-Commissioned Aircrew Initial Training Course, all potential WSOps begin with a Generic Phase of training on 55(R) Squadron, learning skills such as airmanship, meteorology, navigation and principles of flight. These will be skills that are relevant to all the different specialisations. On completion of the Generic Phase, the students will then be streamed into their respective branch. The streaming decision will be made by the RAF, but will be based on an individual’s choice, their performance during the selection process at the Officers and Aircrew Selection Centre (OASC) and their skills in particular areas. Ultimately it is determined by the requirements of the Service.
You’ll hold the rank of acting sergeant during your professional training. Once you start your front-line job, and you’re assessed as being capable of operating independently, you’ll be promoted to substantive sergeant. Further promotion to the rank of flight sergeant and beyond is by competitive selection. Normally you’ll be expected to serve for a minimum of 12 years.
The skills and experience you gain throughout your career as a Weapon Systems Operator could equip you for a number of civilian jobs, including: crewman on a civilian helicopter; air cargo specialist; translator or interpreter.
Your career will start with a 10 week Basic Recruit Training Course (BRTC) at RAF Halton in Buckinghamshire. The course is designed to help you adjust to a military environment. As well as fitness and military training, you’ll also learn about the RAF lifestyle. You’ll then go to RAF Cranwell in Lincolnshire for a 10-week leadership package; this course is physically demanding and fitness is given a high priority throughout. This is followed by a 13-week course to understand aircraft systems and basic survival skills; you’ll then be streamed as a Fixed Wing or Rotary Wing Crewman (Linguists are pre-streamed on joining the RAF).
WSOp Electronic Warfare
You will be trained to operate aircraft radar systems to locate, identify and track surface and sub-surface contacts as well as compiling the air picture for ground commanders.
You will also learn about electronic surveillance and by the end of your training you will be able to identify radars from other aircraft, ships and submarines from around the world.
Finally, you will be taught to be an effective communicator on aircraft radios so that you are able to pass information accurately and in a timely manner to other forces.
You will be taught how to load and restrain cargo in such a way that the aircraft remains stable throughout all stages of flight. You could be streamed to be a rotary crewman and find yourself on operations transporting cargo and troops around the front line. As a fixed wing crewman, you could find yourself transporting passengers and freight over long distances and also in operational areas.
Your First Tour
For your first tour you’ll be posted to a flying station in the UK. During this tour you’ll be in an operational and training role, involving frequent overseas detachments. There will be other more experienced Weapon Systems Operators to help develop your skills and knowledge.
As your career progresses, we’ll continue to train you in new skills. There are opportunities to undertake management and leadership training and you can also study for A-levels or a degree as your career develops