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Aerospace Battle Manager

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The facts

Job description

You’ll control the skies, directing combat aircraft, gathering war-fighting information or watching for hostile satellites.



Pay after training


Joining age

17.5 - 36

Similar civilian jobs

  • Air traffic controller
  • Emergency service operations room controller
  • Defence industry consultant

Usual service

9 years


UK citizen or holder of dual UK/other nationality

Open to

male or female

Qualifications you need

2 A-levels (at grade A-C) or 3 Highers or equivalent, plus 5 GCSE/SCEs at grade C/2 minimum or equivalent including English language and a grade B/1 in maths. Please note: the RAF does not accept A-levels in Critical Thinking or General Studies at any grade.

Qualifications you can gain

Degree or Masters degree


Whether or not you were born in the United Kingdom, you should have resided there for the five years immediately preceding your application.

The job

As an Aerospace Battle Manager you’ll manage the battle in the skies.

There are three types of Aerospace Battle Manager: Weapons specialists direct combat aircraft as they perform their warfighting role; Surveillance specialists monitor the skies and use sophisticated equipment to gather critical warfighting information; finally Space specialists look outside our atmosphere to warn of missiles and hostile intelligence-gathering satellites.

You could find yourself in a high-tech operations room protecting the UK from terrorists, in a Sentry E-3D aircraft patrolling the skies, in a secret bunker monitoring outer space, or overseas in the great outdoors with a mobile radar unit.

I do this job

Aerospace Battle Manager

Aerospace Battle Manager

'You spend years training for operations and when you’re out there and doing the job for real, all the training kicks in and it works'

What’s your favourite bit of the job?
There’s nothing like controlling live aircraft. However, I love the satisfaction of taking trainee controllers through the course from having no knowledge at all to being qualified in six months.

What’s the worst bit of your job?
Well, we heard nightmare stories about extreme ironing at 3am on officer training but they turned out to be unfounded, so I’d have to say additional duties.

What’s the best place you’ve ever been with the RAF? Why?
Deployment in Afghanistan. Because you spend years training for operations and when you’re out there and doing the job for real, all the training kicks in and it works.

What did you want to be when you were 16?
I wanted to be in the RAF.

Do you have any pets?
I have a black Labrador called Oliver.

If you could give a recruit one piece of advice, what would it be?
Know why you want to do it, expect it to be hard work, and expect to be operational very soon with a lot of responsibility.

Aerospace Battle Manager

Tom Wood
Aerospace Battle Manager

‘The RAF uses really sophisticated technology. The idea of dealing with high-tech kit all the time really appealed to me.’

My role

‘Aerospace Battle Managers play an essential role in policing the airspace around the UK. I work in Weapons Control so I’m responsible for tactically controlling and guiding an aircraft onto a target. I work mainly with the aircrew flying F3s, Typhoons and Harriers.

‘It’s quite challenging for aircrew to maintain awareness of where hostile aircraft may be as their radar isn’t as powerful as the radar we have on the ground. We on the other hand can see the whole picture of what’s going on and communicate this to pilots and navigators so they can decide how to deal with the situation.

‘We also do a lot of air-to-air sorties, where jets refuel while in flight. We’ll have a tanker in the air and various fast jets will come to pick up fuel from it. There might be one or two joining every few minutes, so we’ve got to co-ordinate them to make sure everyone joins in the right direction and at the right height so that it all happens safely.’

My day

‘Every day can be different. I’ll usually get to work at around 8am, ready for the morning brief. This covers what the weather’s doing, who’s flying and when and where they’re going. In theory, this plan should be relevant for a while, but most of the time things will change throughout the day, which certainly keeps you on your toes. In essence, my job is to get the aircraft in the right place at the right time to deliver the effects required – and to do all this safely.

‘I usually control one or two sorties a day. I’m based at RAF Scampton in Lincolnshire, but I could be communicating with aircrew flying anywhere from south-west Wales to the north of Scotland.’

My experiences

‘I recently took a Spanish course. I organised it myself, but the RAF contributed towards the cost of the lessons. I used annual leave, but thought that rather than just lying on a beach, I’d get something out of it, so I spent my mornings studying the language and then the afternoons relaxing.’

My life

‘After finishing work I like to do some sport before I head home. That’s one of the brilliant things about the RAF – not only the gym facilities, but the fact that there’s almost always something organised, whether that’s football, badminton or golf.’

What’s your favourite bit of the job?
The challenge and the sense of achievement I get from both my day-to-day work and from sport and adventurous training.

What’s the worst bit of your job?
Probably being away from family and friends. I’ve got a lot of friends in the Air Force which is great, but travelling to see my family is something that I’ve only had to do since I joined up.

Tell us something you didn’t know about your job before you started?
I’d done quite serious jobs before with quite a lot of responsibility, but nothing prepared me for the whole variety of stuff that they can throw at you, and actually how you learn to cope with it.

What are the best and the worst meals in the Mess?
The best meal is breakfast. I usually have English breakfast. The worst meal, I think, is when you turn up five minutes before lunch closes, and everyone’s taken the first, second and third choice, and you’re left with whatever no one else wanted. So that could be anything. It’s usually OK anyway, the food’s never too bad.

What was your favourite subject in school?
I enjoyed languages and technology – making various things, usually involving circuit boards of some sort.

What did you want to be when you were 16?
I wanted to be in a financial job of some sort, maybe in the City. I was always quite good at maths and so that was quite a natural progression for me.

More stories and views:
Tom Wood


Initial Officer Training

Like all our officers, you’ll begin your RAF career with Initial Officer Training (IOT) at the RAF College Cranwell in Lincolnshire.

You’ll follow a challenging 30 week course designed to develop your leadership and management skills.

The course includes fitness development, military training and academic study as well as practical outdoor leadership challenges.

Specialist Training

Once trained, you will use your aerospace battle management skills in a wide variety of environments, working closely with multinational aircrew, the Royal Navy, the Army and foreign military forces.

As you gain experience, you could be employed either as an E-3D Sentry Airborne Early Warning aircraft mission crew member, or qualify on ground mobile radar equipment as part of Number 1 Air Control Centre (No 1 ACC), the RAF’s rapidly deployable mobile radar unit, or further specialise as a Space Operator.

Alternatively, you could also return to the SABM to instruct new students.

We also have a variety of exclusive exchange opportunities which include working with the US Marine Corps in Arizona, the US Air Force Space Command in Colorado and the Royal Norwegian Air Force.

Your first tour

Following your successful completion of either the Weapons or Surveillance training, you will be posted to one of our Control and Reporting Centres (CRC) for your first tour of duty. A tour of duty (‘tour’), also known as a ‘posting’, will typically last between 18 and 24 months. The CRCs are located at RAF Boulmer in Northumberland and RAF Scampton in Lincolnshire. During your first tour you will consolidate your initial aerospace battle management training and develop post-graduate skills that will allow you to progress to combat ready status and be assigned to other ABM roles and on operations.

Ongoing Development

By the time you’re on your third tour (or possibly as early as the end of your second tour), you’re likely to be ready to start climbing the career ladder.

This will involve training for the next level within your sub-specialization.

As a Surveillance specialist, this is likely to be training in the role of Surveillance Director (SD).

As a Weapons Controller, you’ll progress to Fighter Allocator (FA).  Both SD and FA are classed as middle management roles.

At this stage of your career, you will go on to develop wider ABM experience and knowledge which could lead to a number of interesting and exciting roles as well as leadership and management opportunities.

Throughout your career as an ABM, you can expect to undertake detachments to the Falkland Islands as well as detachments in support of Middle East Operations, in Afghanistan or Qatar.

Opportunities exist to undertake many other shorter detachments, usually lasting a few weeks, to various locations around the world.

Previous examples of these detachments have included RAF Akrotiri in Cyprus, Lithuania, Gibraltar, Canada, Spain, the United Arab Emirates and many more.

Your future

Career prospects

You’ll join the RAF on either a Short Service Commission of up to nine years, or on a Permanent Commission that will normally require a minimum of 18 years service.

Promotion to the rank of flight lieutenant is on a time served/satisfactory service basis.

Further promotion to squadron leader and above is by competitive selection.

Transferable skills

As an ABM, you’ll have many of the development opportunities and career prospects of your civilian counterparts, including intimate knowledge of computer systems, leadership and management, decision-making and liaison with engineering colleagues at all levels.

This is enhanced by the chance to work around the world and gain unique experience of Air Command and Control.

Apply now

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0845 605 5555

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