Weapon Systems Operator

Weapon Systems Operators load and restrain cargo on-board military aircraft. As rotary crewmen you could find yourself on operations deploying troops and cargo. On fixed-wing aircraft you’ll look after troops and cargo going all over the world.

Typical Responsibilities:

  • Those specialising in Crewmen roles load and restrain cargo for optimum flight stability

Similar civilian roles include Crewman on a civilian helicopter; air cargo specialist; translator or interpreter.

Royal Air Force - Regular & Reserve

RAF Regulars and Reserves work side by side.

Scroll down to explore the opportunities as a Weapon Systems Operator in the RAF.

Key Facts

Recommend this role

Full Time

Initial pay after training

£35,410 + Benefits

Pay during training

£14,348 + Benefits

Entry level



Usual service

12 Years

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Royal Air Force - Regular & Reserve

In the RAF

My Role

As a Weapons System Operator you are trained in a generic aircrew role and choose a specialisation afterwards. This provides flexibility as it means you can still choose to move into different areas of work as you progress. 

The thing I enjoy most about my current job on the Chinook is the flying. There’s nothing quite like hanging out of the side of the aircraft at 120 knots with the wind in your face, low level at 50 feet, trying to tell the pilot where to go and which tree to turn at.

My Day

A normal day for me in my present role at RAF Odiham is to arrive at the squadron at about 08:30 and find out what is going on that particular day. If we are flying, I will go straight into flight planning, which will require us to get the maps out along with the computers and begin flight planning.

There will also be a requirement for us to book into which airfields we may be visiting that day. If we’re not flying we will focus on the administrative side of the role. This could be anything from preparing for future flights or training exercises, to checking e-mails or maintaining fitness by taking part in circuits at the gym.

Chris, Weapon Systems Operator


Royal Air Force - Regular & Reserve

Full Time

Initial Training

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 life in the RAF.  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).


Specialist Training

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.

WSOp Crewman

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.

Foundation Tour

For your first tour you will be posted to a flying station in the UK.   During this tour you will 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.

Your Career Prospects

You will join the RAF as an airman under an initial 12 year engagement. Following 4 years service, you will be eligible to apply for an extension of service to complete a pension earning engagement of 20 years service or age 40, whichever is the later, during this time. You will hold the rank of acting Sergeant during your professional training. Once you start your front-line job, and you are assessed as being capable of operating independently, you will be promoted to substantive Sergeant. Further promotion to the rank of Flight Sergeant and beyond is by competitive selection.

Ongoing Development

As your career progresses, we will 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.

Transferable Skills

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, as well as a host of management roles.


Full Time

Job requirements


You will need a minimum of 5 GCSEs (or acceptable equivalents): 4 at a minimum of grade C, including English Language and Mathematics at a minimum of grade B or 5 Scottish National Equivalent (SNE) grades; 4 at a minimum of grade 5, including English Language and Mathematics.   Linguists also need a modern language, although evidence of an ability to learn languages without a formal qualification may be acceptable.

Waivers will be considered for candidates with a GCSE C grade in maths on a case by case basis.


  • 17.5 – 32

RAF Requirements

To join the RAF you will also need to meet fitness, health, nationality, residency, and other criteria.