RAF non-commissioned aircrew

Weapons systems operator

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Royal Air Force (RAF) non-commissioned aircrew fly patrols over UK airspace and take part in NATO operations.

Salary range: £15,672 to £35,151

How to become RAF non-commissioned aircrew

You can get into this job through:

  • an apprenticeship
  • applying directly


You could apply to join the RAF through an HM forces serviceperson intermediate apprenticeship.

You’ll need to apply directly to the RAF to discuss which is the best apprenticeship route for you. This will depend on your qualifications and which service role you’re interested in.

Entry requirements

  • entry requirements vary

More information

Volunteering and experience

You can join the RAF Reserve to get some experience of what life is like in the air force and to learn new skills at the same time.

You’ll need to:

  • be between 18 and 54
  • commit to at least 27 days a year
  • attend a 2-week training camp each year

If you’re between 13 and 18 years old, you can join the Air Cadets.

You’ll visit RAF bases and develop some of the key skills that the RAF will be looking for in their recruitment selection process should you go on to apply.

Direct application

You can apply directly to join the RAF.

You’ll need:

  • at least 5 GCSEs grades 9 to 4 (A* to C) including English and maths, and a science for some roles
  • to be over 17.5 years old – upper age limit varies depending on the role
  • to be physically fit

For some roles like weapons system operator linguist, you’ll need to be fluent in at least 2 languages.

If your initial application is accepted, you’ll be invited to talk to someone at your local armed forces careers office about what you want to do, and take an aptitude test.

If you successfully complete the initial stage, you’ll be invited to attend further interviews and assessments, which include fitness and medical tests.

More information

Further information

You’ll find more details about working in the RAF through RAF Careers.

What it takes

Skills and knowledge

You’ll need:

  • physical fitness and endurance
  • patience and the ability to remain calm in stressful situations
  • excellent verbal communication skills
  • the ability to work well with others in a team
  • concentration skills and quick reactions
  • the ability to accept criticism and work well under pressure
  • thinking and reasoning skills
  • to be flexible and open to change
  • to be able to carry out basic tasks on a computer or hand-held device

Restrictions and requirements

You’ll need to:

What you’ll do

Day-to-day tasks

You’ll specialise in a particular role, like:

  • acoustics operator – using radar and sonar to search for and monitor submarine and surface shipping movements
  • loading aircraft, including weapons, supplies, parachutists, and troops
  • helicopter winch operator for search-and-rescue operations
  • electronic warfare systems operator – tracking movements on land, sea and in the air, relaying information to commanders about the position of units, and working on early warning defence systems
  • linguist – monitoring electronic surveillance equipment, translating radio and telecommunications traffic, and taking part in search-and-rescue operations

Working environment

You could work in a warzone or at a military base.

Your working environment may be physically and emotionally demanding.

Career path and progression

With experience and further training, you could progress to flight sergeant, then to master aircrew. You could also apply to become a commissioned RAF officer.

You could go into a wide range of careers once you leave the RAF, depending on your skills, training and qualifications.

The Career Transition Partnership, Quest and Troops to Teachers have more information on careers outside the armed forces.

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