Air operations support

SNCO Air Traffic Controller

The SNCO Air Traffic Controller role is a diverse, exciting and complex employment area which supports operations both in the UK and around the world. The key employment areas are Terminal Air Traffic Control (providing an ATC service at an airfield), Area Control (working alongside civilian Air Traffic Controllers at the UK’s Air Traffic Control Centre at Swanwick) and Tactical Air Traffic Control (deploying at short notice to set up a temporary airstrip).
Using state of the art radar and communications technology you will be trained to:

• Safely integrate military and civilian aircraft departing from and arriving at military airfields.
• Become part of the team that support Typhoon jets that scramble and intercept suspicious aircraft.
• Control fighter, bomber, surveillance, refuelling and even unmanned aircraft as they support a number of different training and operational tasks.
• Work alongside civilian controllers as an Area Radar Controller ensuring military aircraft operate safely amongst civilian airliners in busy controlled airspace.
• Provide specialist battlespace management support to both UK and multi-national exercises and operations around the world.
• Deploy on military operations as a Tactical Air Traffic Controller that establishes temporary runways in austere locations in support of a number of agencies including UK Special Forces.

As a SNCO Air Traffic Controller you could be controlling aircraft from a building, a field, or even an aircraft carrier. You will be part of a varied and stimulating organisation which offers an exciting career and worldwide employment opportunities that is at the heart of the RAFs flying outputs.

Battlespace Management Transformation

You should be aware that the RAF intends to bring together the roles of SNCO ATC and SNCO Weapon Controller to form a single specialisation called Non-Commissioned Controller (NCC). 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 SNCO ATC and SNCO Weapon Controller should be submitted as usual, since these roles will remain largely unchanged within the new specialisation.

Royal Air Force - Regular & Reserve

RAF Regulars and Reserves work side by side.

Scroll down to explore the opportunities as a SNCO Air Traffic Controller in the RAF.

Key Facts

Full Time

Initial pay after training

£33,807 + Benefits

Pay during training

£14,931 + Benefits

Entry level

Airmen (Senior Non-Commissioned Officer)


Usual service

12 Years

Royal Air Force - Regular & Reserve

In the RAF

My Role

'As an Air Traffic Controller my role is to provide the safe and expeditious flow of Air Traffic. By controlling Air Systems departing, arriving and transiting both visually and using radar I ensure the safety of all aircraft under my control.

By providing precision and non-precision approaches in adverse weather conditions, this assures the safety of Air Systems arriving at any airfield.

In the event of any incident on the airfield, I co-ordinate and dispatch the airfield emergency services ensuring a prompt and timely response.'

My Day

A typical day controlling could start in any one of the controlling positions.

As Ground Controller I confirm the number of personnel on board and ensure the aircraft taxis safely to the correct runway, during which time I notify the radar controller with departure profiles.

As the Aerodrome Controller it is my job to ensure the runway is available and each aircraft is kept informed of the position of other aircraft flying in the visual circuit and allowing the safe usage of the runway.

When safely airborne the aircraft is passed to the Departures Controller, who identifies it on radar and provides information on any aircraft in the vicinity.

When the aircraft is ready to recover to the aerodrome, the Approach Controller provides information on current weather and runway in use and de-conflicts the aircraft with other aircraft returning to base.

In poor weather or for training purposes, the aircraft may elect to perform a radar recovery. In this case the Director Control Position is responsible for the sequencing of multiple aircraft to ensure the correct spacing for handover to the talkdown controller. The Talkdown controller utilises Precision Approach Radar to provide accurate information of the aircraft’s heading and altitude, and “talks” the aircrew safely onto the runway.

As a Royal Air Force controller I am qualified in all these disciplines. What I love about my job is that no two days are the same. Weather, the prevailing Air Traffic “picture” and the number of aircraft operating at any one time ensures a varied, challenging but ultimately rewarding day. I cannot think of any other job where its dynamic, ever changing nature could be so engaging and satisfying.

Janine, Air Traffic Controller


Royal Air Force - Regular & Reserve

Full Time

Initial Training

Recruit & Non-Commissioned Aircrew Initial Training

As a direct entrant joining the Royal Air Force at the rank of Sergeant (rank attained upon completion of Air Traffic Control 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 will also learn about the RAF lifestyle. 

Following Recruit Training, you will complete the Non-Commissioned Aircrew Initial Training Course (NCAITC) at the RAF College Cranwell in Lincolnshire. This 10-week course is designed to develop your leadership and management skills and includes fitness development, military training and academic study as well as practical outdoor leadership challenges. You can find out details of the NCAITC Course here.

Specialist Training

After the NCAITC, 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

Following successful completion of your specialist training, your first tour will last approximately 2-3 years and will be at one of the RAFs airfields in the UK, in Cyprus, or, following additional training, at the Air Traffic Control Centre at Swanwick. You will then consolidate your specialist training and develop post-graduate skills making you Combat Ready and ready to deploy on military operations anywhere in the world.

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.

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 the Air Traffic Control Centre.

You may also be selected for advancement to intermediate management roles, responsible for supervising teams of specialists.  Throughout your career, you should expect operational deployments (generally of up to but not limited to 6 months duration) to a range of locations worldwide, together with ad-hoc shorter detachments to such locations as Cyprus, Lithuania, Gibraltar, Canada, Spain, the United Arab Emirates, Malaysia and the US.  The RAF also has a variety of exchange opportunities.

Transferable Skills

As a SNCO Air Traffic Controller, you will obtain plenty of transferable skills including advanced leadership (CMI Accredited), change and project management and the opportunity for further academic development.  Opportunities for closer alignment to the civilian air traffic control licences are being continually assessed.

Visit to an RAF Unit

Opportunities exist to visit an RAF unit where you will be able to meet serving SNCO Air Traffic Controllers and learn more about the specialisation and the various roles you could find yourself employed in. These visits are called Realistic Job Previews, for which on-site accommodation and funding is available. However, places are unavoidably limited and you are therefore strongly encouraged to book early through the RAF staff at the various Armed Forces Careers Offices.


Full Time

Job requirements


You need
GCSE at Grade C/4-5 in English Language
GCSE at Grade C/4-5 in Maths
GCSEs at Grade C/4-5 in 3 other subjects
SCE Standard Grades at Grade 2/Scottish National 5 in English
SCE Standard Grades at Grade 2/Scottish National 5 in Maths
SCE Standard Grades at Grade 2/Scottish National 5 in 3 other subjects


  • 17.5-40 (Must enter phase one training by 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