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RAF non-commissioned aircrew Weapons systems operator (WSOps)

RAF non-commissioned aircrew carry out air patrols over UK airspace and take part in NATO operations.

Salary, a pound sign Salary: £14,750 to £45,000 average per year
Hours, a clock face Hours: Variable per week

1. Entry requirements

You’ll need to meet eligibility requirements, including:

  • being aged 17.5 to 32 
  • having 5 GCSEs at grades 9 to 4 (A* to C), including English language and grade 5/6 (B) in maths
  • being a citizen of the UK, Republic of Ireland or the Commonwealth, or having dual nationality

You’ll also need to pass a practical initiative test, a fitness test, an interview, a medical, and background checks.

You’ll need ability in foreign languages to specialise as a linguist. A qualification isn’t always essential if you're fluent in 2 or more languages.

You could get an RAF sixth-form scholarship if you’re still at school, or a medical, dental or engineering sponsorship if you’re applying to university.

You could get into this job through an RAF apprenticeship.

The RAF has more information about this role.

2. Skills required

You’ll need:

  • leadership qualities
  • excellent spoken and written communication skills
  • the ability to react and think quickly under pressure
  • the ability to give and take orders
  • teamworking skills
  • a practical approach to solving problems

3. What you'll do

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. You might also train as a 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

4. Salary

Starter: £14,750

Experienced: £34,000

Highly Experienced: £38,000 to £45,000

You may get additional payments and bonuses linked to your length of service.

These figures are a guide.

5. Working hours, patterns and environment

Your hours will depend on the operation or exercise you’re working on.

You may be posted to RAF bases anywhere in the UK or overseas. 

You’ll need to be prepared to go into combat zones at any time, where you’ll be working in difficult, dangerous and sometimes life-threatening situations.

6. 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. 

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Last updated: 18 August 2017