Air operations support

Air Traffic Control Officer

Air Traffic Control Officers are charged with keeping our skies safe. These trained leaders manage the teams that help our air crews complete missions smoothly.

Typical Responsibilities:

  • Manage and co-ordinate Air Traffic Control teams
  • Use radar, radio and data processing facilities to provide aeronautical guidance to RAF aircrew
  • Facilitate the safe transit of civilian aircraft through air space

Similar civilian roles include Air Traffic Control Manager, Airline Manager Transport planning or Logistics Manager.

Battlespace Management Transformation

You should be aware that the RAF intends to merge ATC, ABM and Flt Ops into a single branch entitled the Air Operations Branch. This change is expected to occur in Apr 2018. Further information regarding this change will be available in the near future; in the interim, applications for ATC, ABM and Flt Ops should be submitted as usual, since these specialisations will remain largely unchanged within the new branch.

Royal Air Force - Regular & Reserve

RAF Regulars and Reserves work side by side.

Scroll down to explore the opportunities as an Air Traffic Control Officer in the RAF.

Key Facts

Full Time

Initial pay after training

£30,616 + benefits

Pay during training

£25,727 + benefits

Entry level



Usual service

12 Years

Royal Air Force - Regular & Reserve

In the RAF

My Role

‘Air Traffic Control Officers can be sent anywhere, which is one of the attractions of the job for me. You also have variety – fast jets, multi-engine aircraft, helicopters – you’re constantly controlling a variety of aircraft. In civilian air traffic it’s all planned and timed, but we get multiple approaches and you never know from day to day who’s going to fly in or from where.’

My Day

‘I work in the air traffic control tower. Working as a team is really important and everybody relies on one another. You also need to be able to absorb a lot of information and be flexible enough to keep updating and changing your plans as situations develop.

In the RAF, great opportunities can come along and you’ve just got to grab them. Recently I went to Jordan in a Hercules. We landed in the desert to pick up personnel on an exercise out there, and then we turned round and came back. That’s what it’s all about – you’ve got to make the most of your opportunities.’

Emma, Air Traffic Control Officer


Royal Air Force - Regular & Reserve

Full Time

Initial Training

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

After the IOT you will complete a 22-week specialist Air Traffic Control training course at RAF Shawbury, Shropshire. Apart from Air Traffic Controller Training, the course involves: Force Development at FDTC Fairbourne or FDTC Grantown-on-Spey, Beliefs, Values, Protocol (BVP) sessions with the Stn Padre, Air Experience Flying and a visit to Liverpool Airport.

Foundation Tour

During your first tour you will find yourself working at either an Air Traffic Control Tower on a RAF base or at an Air Traffic Control Centre, working alongside your civilian counterparts.

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.

Ongoing Development

You will conduct additional training to develop your professional skills during each tour of duty and complete a further 6-week course in Area Radar Control before working at an Air Traffic Control Centre. You will also have the opportunity to undertake additional leadership and management training.

Transferable Skills

As an Air Traffic Control Officer in the RAF you will have many of the opportunities and career prospects of your civilian counterparts with the chance to work around the world and gain a unique experience of Air Traffic Control.

Visit to RAF Shawbury

If you would like to gain a first-hand insight into the training that you will undertake at the Central Air Traffic Control School (CATCS) at RAF Shawbury as well as learn more about the various roles of an Air Traffic Control Officer, opportunities exist to visit the School. These are called Realistic Job Prospect Visits and allow you to observe elements of the training course and meet serving ATC Officers with the aim of offering you a greater appreciation of work and life in the RAF and in the Air Traffic Control branch as well as the specialist training involved for this role. Attending one of these visits would also help you to increase your general knowledge and understanding of the RAF.

Dependant on whether you have made a formal application to the RAF for this role and your status within the recruitment process, it may be necessary for you to fund the visit yourself (e.g. travel costs). Further details on these visits, including dates and funding information, will be available through your nearest Armed Forces Careers Office (AFCO). However, availability of these visits and the number of places on each of them are unavoidably limited and therefore, if you are seriously interested in this opportunity, you are strongly encouraged to talk to the RAF staff at your local AFCO early to avoid possible disappointment.


Full Time

Job requirements


You need:

GCSE at Grade C/4-5 or above in English Language
GCSE at Grade C/4-5 or above in Maths
GCSEs at Grade C/4-5 or above in three other subjects.


SCE Standard Grades at Grade 2/Scottish National 5 (Grades A-C) in English Language
SCE Standard Grades at Grade 2/Scottish National 5 (Grades A-C) in Maths
SCE Standard Grades at Grade 2/Scottish National 5 (Grades A-C) in three other subjects

In addition, you need at least 2 A2 Levels/3 Highers at Grade C or above (excluding General Studies or Critical Thinking) which must total a minimum of 64 UCAS points. 

Alternatively, if you hold a UK degree at Grade 2:2 or higher (or acceptable alternative) you only need Mathematics and English Language GCSEs at a minimum of Grade C/4-5 or Mathematics and English Language SCE Standard Grades of 2 or SNE Grade 5 (A-C).


  • 17.5-40 (Must have entered IOT before 41st birthday)

RAF Requirements

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


Full Time