In the RAF
I am a Qualified Weapons Instructor on my squadron, based at RAF Waddington, working onboard the E-3D Sentry aircraft.
Primarily, I am responsible for instructing tactics to both staff and the students in order to ensure they deliver success in the air. The joy of being an ABM in the Royal Air Force is having the opportunity to employ what you have been taught on a regular basis; whether it be securing the skies for UK defence or the in support of the war on terrorism, ABMs are always called upon.
Delivering results during a eventful day of operations anywhere in the world, or controlling 50 aircraft on the world’s busiest exercise, RED FLAG, and knowing you were a vital part of it is what makes it so rewarding. Prior to being posted to the E-3D, I have served at both No.1 Air Control Centre, the RAF’s mobile tactical ground radar unit and as an exchange officer onboard HMS Ark Royal. However, the best part of my job is knowing that, as part of a world class team, we make a significant difference to the outcome of an operation.
My working day can start as early as 5:30 am for a mission briefing if we are flying, but every day is different. Each one brings new opportunities as well as challenges, be they controlling multiple air defence fighters, instructing new students or planning a mission or a squadron deployment.
On mission days we are airborne for several hours and could be extended by air refuelling tanker if necessary and there is always a debrief afterwards to ensure that we do even better next time.
If we are not flying then there is still plenty to do, perhaps planning some adventurous training or a social event in the Officers’ Mess, the RAF likes to keep you busy. I have represented the RAF in ladies Football, and Cross Country Running so I am lucky that the RAF encourages a high degree of personal fitness and I make the time to go for a run or use the excellent gym facilities.
Like most other ABM officers I have a thirst for knowledge and completed a Masters in Aerosystems - Airspace Operations and Tactics. Like many further educational courses it was funded by the RAF.
Sarah, ABM Weapons Control Officer
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 24 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. You can find out more information about IOT in this publication.
Specialist training is delivered at the School of Aerospace Battle Management (SABM) at RAF Boulmer in Northumberland starting with a 6-week foundation module. Following the foundation module you will be assigned to one of the two core specialisations, Surveillance or Weapons, for a further 6 months of training.
Surveillance officers learn to interpret the air picture, determining friend from foe. Weapons Control officers are taught to direct fighters to intercept threat aircraft and maintain the integrity of our airspace.
Your first tour will last approximately 24 months and will be at one of our two Control and Reporting Centres, which are located at RAF Boulmer and at RAF Scampton in Lincolnshire. You will consolidate your specialist training and develop post-graduate skills allowing you to achieve ‘combat ready’ status and deploy on operations.
Your Career Prospects
You will join the RAF on an Initial Commission of 12 years and may be selected to serve on a pension earning commission of 20 years service or age 40, whichever is the later, during this time. Promotion to the rank of Flight Lieutenant is on a time served/satisfactory service basis after 3½ years from completing IOT. Further promotion to Squadron Leader and above is by competitive selection.
Subsequent tours may see you being employed in a wide variety of areas, including:
• As ‘mission crew’ flying in E-3D ‘Sentry’ Airborne Early Warning aircraft;
• ‘Number 1 Air Control Centre’, the RAF’s deployable, ground based, command & control unit;
• Instructing ab initio and postgraduate students at the SABM;
• As a ‘Ballistic Missile Early Warning’ space operator at RAF Fylingdales in North Yorkshire or the ‘UK Space Operations Coordination Centre’ at RAF High Wycombe in Buckinghamshire.
You may also be selected for advancement to management roles, responsible for leading fellow officers and airmen. Throughout your career, you should expect operational deployments (generally of up to 6 months) to a range of locations worldwide, together with ad-hoc shorter detachments such as to Cyprus, Lithuania, Gibraltar, Canada, Spain, the United Arab Emirates, Malaysia and many more. We also have a variety of exclusive exchange opportunities which include instructing the US Marine Corps in Arizona; the US Air Force Space Command in Colorado and the Royal Norwegian Air Force.
As an ABM, you will obtain plenty of transferable skills including in the fields of leadership, operations management and decision-making. You will also amply demonstrate your ability to take responsibility for others, including in demanding situations.
Visit to RAF Boulmer
Opportunities exist to visit RAF Boulmer, observe training, meet serving ABMs and learn more about the branch. These visits are called Realistic Job Prospects, for which on-site accommodation and funding may be available. However, places are unavoidably limited and you are therefore strongly encouraged to book early through RAF staff at Armed Forces Careers Information Offices (AFCO).
You will need a minimum of 5 GCSEs at Grade C (Grade 4 to 5 with effect from Aug 17) or above, including English Language and Mathematics (or acceptable equivalents).
In addition, you need at least 2 A2 Levels, at a minimum of Grade C (or equivalent qualifications, excluding General Studies and Critical Thinking) which must total a minimum of 64 UCAS points
Alternatively you hold a UK degree at Grade 2:2 or higher (or acceptable alternative), you only need 2 GCSEs (Mathematics and English Language) at a minimum of Grade C (Grade 4 to 5 with effect from Aug 17).
- 17.5 – 40 (Must have entered IOT before 41st birthday).
To join the RAF you will also need to meet fitness, health, nationality, residency, and other criteria detailed below.