Weapon Systems Operator

Weapon Systems Operator, as integral members of the flight crew you will be responsible for a variety of tasks, including load and cargo restraint, management of troops, operating cutting edge surveillance technology or manning the defensive weapon systems. 

Typical Responsibilities:

  • As a rotary crewman you could find yourself on operations deploying troops and cargo, assisting with aircraft navigation, manning the weapon systems or helping to keep your aircraft serviceable.
  • As a fixed-wing crewman you could find yourself looking after troops and cargo going all over the world, ensuring compliance with international aviation regulations, monitoring air-to-air refuelling systems, or dispatching troops and cargo for airborne delivery.
  • In the Sensor Operator role you will be responsible for the radar and surveillance systems, and operating cutting-edge technology on the Intelligence Surveillance and Reconnaissance aircraft in service with the RAF.

    Similar civilian roles include Crewman on a civilian helicopter; air cargo specialist; air surveillance specialist.

RAF Regulars and Reserves work side by side.

Scroll down to explore the opportunities as a Weapon Systems Operator 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 + Benefits
£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 Weapon System’s Operator (WSOp) you will be trained to a base level in all aspects of the role before being streamed into one of the 3 WSOp specialisations. This provides flexibility within the job and allows you to transfer to other specialisations of the role throughout your career.

On completion of your training you will be a Senior Non Commissioned Officer (SNCO) in the RAF and as such have a duty to uphold standards and traditions and you will be given responsibility consummate with your position. You will be a member of the Warrant Officer’s and Sgt’s Mess and able to attend functions and social events throughout the year.

You could be employed on a variety of aircraft in the RAF’s inventory in each of the specialisations below:

Rotary Crewman

Operating as the crewman on either the Chinook helicopters, based at RAF Odiham in Hampshire on 7, 18 or 27 Sqn or the Puma 2 helicopters, based at RAF Benson in Oxfordshire on 33 or 230 Sqn.

Fixed Wing Crewman

Operating as a loadmaster and subject matter expert on the C17 Globemaster of 99 Sqn, A400M Atlas of 70 Sqn, C130 Hercules of 47 Sqn all at RAF Brize Norton in Oxfordshire or on 32 (The Royal) Sqn operating the BAe 146 at RAF Northolt in London.

Operating as a Mission Systems Operator on the Voyager A330 on 10 or 101 Sqn’s supervising and co-ordinating airborne refuelling missions based at RAF Brize Norton

Sensor Operator

Operating a variety of sensor and communication equipment on board the RAF’s ISTAR fleet based at RAF Waddington.

My Day

For a detailed look at life as one of the RAF’s highly trained Weapon System’s Operators please open one of the following documents:

A Day In The Life Of A Rotary Crewman
A Day In The Life Of A Fixed Wing Crewman
A Day In The Life Of A Mission Systems Operator
A Day In The Life Of A Sensor Operator
A Day In The Life Of An Aircrew Recruit


Full Time Regular

Full Time Regular

Initial Training

Your career will start alongside all the RAF ground Trades with a 10 week Basic Recruit Training Course (BTRC) at RAF Halton in Buckinghamshire. The course is designed to help you adjust to a military environment. You will learn about life in the RAF as well as undertake both military and fitness training.


Following Basic Recruit Training, you will complete the Non Commissioned Aircrew Initial Training Course (NCAITC) at RAF College Cranwell in Lincolnshire. This is an 11 week aviation minded course designed to develop your leadership and management skills and includes fitness development. The course builds on the basics learnt at BTRC and provides the necessary leadership skills required to produce credible, motivated, physically and mentally robust Senior Non Commissioned Officers (SNCO).
You can find details of the NCACITC course here.

Aircrew Training

After graduation you will complete a week long survival package and be fitted for your flying equipment during an Aviation Medicine week at RAF Henlow. Once complete you will start your aviation specific training starting with Generic training.


Generic training is 14 weeks long and takes place on 45 Sqn at RAFC Cranwell. The course comprises of theory, simulator and practical exercises. You will be assessed throughout this course on a wide range of subjects from Meteorology to Radar Theory and Aircraft structures. At the end of this course you will then be streamed to Electronic Warfare, Rotary or Fixed Wing.

Specialist Training

WSOp Rotary – If streamed rotary you will complete an 11 month helicopter training package at RAF Shawbury  which will cover all aspects of the rotary crewman role. You will learn the basics of operating on the Squirrel Helicopter and then advanced crewman responsibilities on the Griffin helicopters of 60 Sqn including voice marshalling, navigation, night flying and cargo and passenger regulations. Once complete you will be awarded your flying brevet and be streamed to either our Chinook or Puma helicopter fleets.  You will then be posted to 28 Sqn RAF Benson to complete the Operational Conversion Unit (OCU). This training will introduce you to either the Chinook or Puma and get you to a Limited Combat Ready (LCR) standard whereby you will be then posted to a frontline Sqn for your first tour where you could find yourself on exercises and operations around the world transporting troops and cargo around the front line.

WSOp Fixed Wing - If streamed fixed wing you will remain at RAFC Cranwell on 45 Sqn and complete a 20 week training package. This is split into a 10 week theory and practical phase and a 10 week flying phase. Throughout the course you will learn about the roles and responsibilities of a fixed wing crewman. This will include dangerous goods management, passenger and cargo regulations, loading and restraint principles and standard operating practices. On completion of this course you will be streamed to one of the RAF’s fixed wing platforms. You could be a MSO on Voyager dealing with air to air refuelling, or a crewman on the Bae146, C17, C130 or A400M fleets. Whichever way you are streamed you will complete the relevant OCU on a frontline Sqn after which you could find yourself transporting passengers and freight over long distances across the world and also within operational areas.

WSOp Sensor Operator - If streamed as a SO you will undertake a 20 week Training Phase that includes a 4 week Synthetic Training Phase and 9 weeks of Flying and Simulation Training at RNAS Culdrose. On completion of this phase you will be assigned to RAF Waddington to complete an Operational Conversion Unit of up to 6 months on the aircraft to which you have been streamed. This could be the RC-135 Rivet Joint, Reaper, Sentinel or Sentry E3D aircraft.

Foundation Tour

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 you will have completed Generic training you will be eligible to request a career change to another WSOp specialisation once you have completed at least 1 tour on your chosen type. 

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: crewman on a civilian helicopter; air cargo specialist; air surveillance specialist; translator or interpreter, as well as a host of management roles. The aircrew training courses you complete will qualify you for awards in leadership and management through the ILM and CIL.


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.


  • 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