In the RAF
As a Weapons System Operator you are trained in a generic aircrew role and choose a specialisation afterwards. This provides flexibility as it means you can still choose to move into different areas of work as you progress.
The thing I enjoy most about my current job on the Chinook is the flying. There’s nothing quite like hanging out of the side of the aircraft at 120 knots with the wind in your face, low level at 50 feet, trying to tell the pilot where to go and which tree to turn at.
A normal day for me in my present role at RAF Odiham is to arrive at the squadron at about 08:30 and find out what is going on that particular day. If we are flying, I will go straight into flight planning, which will require us to get the maps out along with the computers and begin flight planning.
There will also be a requirement for us to book into which airfields we may be visiting that day. If we’re not flying we will focus on the administrative side of the role. This could be anything from preparing for future flights or training exercises, to checking e-mails or maintaining fitness by taking part in circuits at the gym.
Chris, Weapon Systems Operator
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 a 10-week leadership package; this course is physically demanding and fitness is given a high priority throughout.
Graduation from this will be followed by your professional training, which begins with a 13-week generic training course teaching basic aircrew skills, including navigation, knowledge of aircraft systems, and basic survival skills. On completion of this you will be streamed Rotary Crewman, Fixed Wing Crewman, or Electronic Warfare.
WSOp Electronic Warfare
If streamed as an EW specialist you will undertake a 6-week Academic Phase with a leading UK Defence Partner and further training at RAFC Cranwell before completing a 7-week Flying and Simulation Phase at RNAS Culdrose. You will then return to RAFC Cranwell for a further 2 weeks of training before being assigned to RAF Waddington to complete an Operational Conversion Course of up to 6 months on the aircraft to which you have been assigned. You will be trained to collect, analyse and exploit information as part of a mission crew on aircraft or RPAS (Remotely Piloted Aircraft System). You will operate sensor equipment including Radar, Electro-optical cameras, signals intelligence equipment, and electronic support measures as part of the RAF’s ISTAR (Intelligence, Surveillance Target Acquisition and Reconnaissance) Force. You will be responsible for collecting and distributing timely intelligence to air and ground forces in support of operations as well as locating, tracking and identifying contacts in order to maintain the commander’s air and ground situational awareness.
If streamed to operate on Fixed Wing aircraft, you will complete a 4-month general crewman course at RAFC Cranwell, or 9 months at RAF Shawbury if streamed Rotary. This will then be followed by a 5-month Operational Conversion Course on the aircraft that you will be operating on. You will be taught how to load and restrain cargo in such a way that the aircraft remains stable throughout all stages of flight. You will also be taught the responsibilities you will have to the aircraft captain for everything that is in the cargo bay of the aircraft. You could be streamed rotary crewman and find yourself on operations transporting troops and cargo around the front line. If you are streamed fixed wing crewman, then you could find yourself transporting passengers and freight over long distances, and also within operational areas.
For your first tour you will be posted to a flying station in the UK. During this tour you will be in an operational and training role, involving frequent overseas detachments. There will be other more experienced Weapon Systems Operators to help develop your skills and knowledge.
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.
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.
The skills and experience you gain throughout your career as a Weapon Systems Operator could equip you for a number of civilian jobs, including: crewman on a civilian helicopter; air cargo specialist; air surveillance specialist; translator or interpreter, as well as a host of management roles.
You will need a minimum of 5 GCSEs (or acceptable equivalents) at a minimum of Grade C, 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.
- 17.5 - 32 (Must enter phase one training before 33rd birthday)
|To join the RAF you will also need to meet fitness, health, nationality, residency, and other criteria.|