In the RAF
‘I work in the mission planning section, where we supply all the RAF squadrons with data such as maps and digital information. It’s a really varied role — one day I could be supplying information for the transport of a VIP, the next day it could be a mission.’
‘We’ve recently been upgrading to a new map system, adding a lot more detail. That involved removing, updating and replacing all the digital map disks, and changing the application settings. It’s really cutting-edge stuff, very technical. Our maps contain all sorts of detailed information on the terrain, from elevation and landscape data, to where power lines are located.’
David, Air Cartographer
Your career will start with a 10 week Basic Recruit Training Course 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.
The next step is a 12-week specialist training course at the School of Air Cartography at RAF Northolt. This course is designed to give you a basic understanding of your role and prepare you for your first section. The training will also provide you with the opportunity to gain a DAO Level 4 Certificate in Aeronautical Cartography (QCF).
There are opportunities to attain qualifications in Geospatial Analysis and, as your career progresses, we’ll continue to train you in new technical skills as well as skills in management and leadership.
Your First Tour
You’ll work in one of our departments on takeoff and landing charts, charts of the airways, fast jet and helicopter charts, or analysing an information database.
You will initially join the RAF for a period of twelve years on a Notice Engagement. After completing one year’s total service, you will be eligible for promotion to Senior Aircraftman, providing you pass a Trade Ability Test and Basic Trade Training. Further promotion to the rank of Corporal and beyond is by competitive selection.
Many of the software packages that we use are industry standard and skills are easily transferable. The Diploma you can earn is as valuable in the civilian world as it is in the RAF – which means that whenever you leave the Service, you’ll be well placed to find a job in commercial or civil service cartography.
You need GCSEs at a minimum Grade C (Grade 4 to 5 with effect from Aug 17) or equivalent, or SCE Standard Grades at Grade 2/Scottish National 5, in English language and Mathematics.
All Air Cartographers must have, or gain, Level 1 Functional Skills (FS) qualifications in English and Mathematics to graduate from Recruit training.
- 17-35 (Must attest before 36th birthday)
To join the RAF you will also need to meet fitness, health, nationality, residency, and other criteria detailed below.