Weapon Systems Operator (Linguist)

A Weapon Systems Operator, Linguist, WSOp (L), is an integral member of a mission crew. A WSOp (L) will work on board aircraft like the Boeing RC-135 ‘Rivet Joint’. Fluent in two or more languages, they monitor, collect and analyse foreign-language voice transmissions.

Typical responsibilities:

  • Interpret foreign transmissions in real time
  • Provide up-to-date intelligence to military commanders

Similar civilian roles include Air Surveillance Specialist, Translator or Interpreter.

RAF Regulars and Reserves work side by side.

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

Key Facts

Full Time Regular

Full Time Regular

Initial pay after training

£33,936 + Benefits
Incremental yearly increases to a max of £38,122 for Sgt 
£45,124 for FS + Benefits
£48,865 for MACr Benefits
Recruit and Retention Pay - Flying £7.26 - £20.79 per day depending on time served.

Pay during training

£14,931 + Benefits

Entry level

Senior Non-Commissioned Officer


Usual service

12 Years

In the RAF

My Role

As a WSOp Linguist you will monitor, collect and analyse foreign-language voice transmissions and offer intelligence support. With every mission you have to quickly adapt to unfolding situations, use your initiative, prioritise all the information received and produce tactical reports for military commanders. You can expect to fly several missions a week from the base in Lincolnshire, or from a Deployed Operating Base somewhere overseas. It is a completely different environment when you are on flying duties.

My Day

For a detailed look at life as one of the RAF’s highly trained Weapon Systems Operator Linguists please open the following document:

Find out more about being a WSOp Linguist


Full Time Regular

Full Time Regular

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 an 11-week leadership package; this course is called the Non Commissioned Aircrew Initial training Course (NCAITC). The course is physically demanding and fitness is given a high priority throughout. You can find details of the NCACITC course here.

Graduation from the NCAITC will be followed by your professional training, which begins with a 14-week generic training course that aims to teach you basic aircrew skills, including navigation, aircraft systems’ knowledge and basic survival skills. On completion of this you will progress to your specialist language training.

Specialist Training

As a Linguist, you will have up to 20 months intensive language training at either Chicksands in Bedfordshire or Shrivenham in Wiltshire before going to RAF Waddington in Lincolnshire to undergo a Technical Applied Language Course and Operational Conversion Training on the aircraft that you will be operating on.

Foundation Tour

As a Linguist your first tour will be a posting to a flying station in the UK. During this tour you will be in an operational and training role. This involves training exercises and detachments, both in the UK and overseas. On the Squadron there will be other more experienced Weapon Systems Operators (Linguist) to help develop your skills, knowledge, and experience.

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 training in further aircrew skills, leadership and management training, and to qualify as an instructor. There are also opportunities to continue with further educational qualifications, including degrees, 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: air surveillance specialist; translator or interpreter, as well as a host of management roles.

If you would like to utilise your language skills but in a ground-based career, please take a look at this role.


Full Time Regular

Full Time Regular



You will need a minimum of 5 GCSEs (or acceptable equivalents) at a minimum of Grade C (Grade 4 to 5 with effect from Aug 17), including English Language and Mathematics or 5 Scottish Certificate of Education (SCE) Standard Grades at a minimum of Grade 2, including English Language and Mathematics or 5 Scottish National Equivalent (SNE) grades at 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.


  • 17.5 – 32 (Must enter phase one training before 33rd birthday)

RAF Requirements

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


Register your interest for Regular service, and apprenticeships. Use the link below or call the Regular information line.

Full Time Regular

Full Time Regular