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.
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.
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.
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.
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. The aircrew training courses you complete will qualify you for awards in leadership and management through the ILM and CIL.