joining the RAF?

Hi. I know this is an army forum so its mainly for the AAC, but I have some questions about the RAF.

I'm 18 years old and I work in a casino, which I absolutely detest. I have considered joining the RAF for years (I was in the ATC from age 14 - 18), and I recently noticed on the careers website that they are recruiting for Weapons Systems Operators (Crewman). Is this just the new name for the Loadmaster job spec?

I am in Scotland, and have 3 highers (none are in a science, though). I am at a point in my life where I am totally serious about joining, but this particular job spec is troubling me. I know that you become a Sergeant after training, and the pay is astronomical, and thats whats worrying me - it seems totally out of my league.

When I was in Akrotiri with the cadets, the loadies I met there were much older than me. What I really want to know is if I have any chance of getting in - are there young guys doing this job, or is it so competitive that its mainly people with degrees/other experience? I will be going to the careers office on Monday, but I'd really like to know this beforehand.

The closest Army thing I can find is for Air Despatchers - is that a similar thing? Is there anyone here who does this job?

Thanks in advance. Well, if anyone replies :)
Suggest you PM 'Muttley' or 'Lord Flasheart' for advice on a career as Aircrew mate.

Welcome to ARRSE BTW, Flash may try and get photos of your smooth thighs etc, but other than that you are pretty safe.


WSO sits in the back of a Tornado I believe.

Why don't you just walk into the RAF recruiting office and have a chat with them. If it's one of those Armed Forces Recruiting Offices which has reps from all three services, remember to walk right up to the Army recruiter and ask where the RAF guy is.

Do yourself a big one and stay the fack away from anything in DPM .

Weapon System Operator (Crewman) is the new name for a Loadmaster.

All NCO Aircrew jobs are now termed WSO, for instance WSO (Linguist) is what would have been an Air Signaller.

Weapon System Officer is the new name for the fast back seaters, it is easy to confuse the two.

A chap that may be worth a PM on this site is Magic_Mushroom, he is RAF Aircrew.

Thank you very much for all your help.. I'll go and poke around that PPrune site, and definetly go to the AFCO on Monday.



Bloody crabs.....why can't you just call him a you did in the war.
Probably the same reason we don't call them Air Gunners any more...whatever that is.
Around 2 years ago, all non-pilot RAF aircrew were re-badged into Weapons Systems Officer (WSO) or NCO Weapons Systems Operator (WSOp) streams.

From your perspective, WSO is effectively now what used to be known as Navigator and they fly in fast jet, multi-engine and rotary. By around 2010, WSOs will basically fly Tornado GR4, Nimrod MRA4, Nimrod R1, AWACS, Sentinel R1 (ASTOR), UAV (okay not actually flying!) and I suspect a small number will be in the back of some twin-stick Typhoons. Technically, all commissioned Air Engineers, Air Electronics Officers, Air Signallers and Air Loadmasters were also assimilated into the WSO branch.

The NCO Aircrew (NCA) WSOp trade replaced the previous Airmen Aircrew trades of Air Electronics Operator, Air Engineer, Air Signaller and Air Loadmaster. WSOp (Electronic Warfare) and WSOp (Acoustic) specialisations equate to the old AEOp 'dry' and 'wet' specialisations, WSOp (Linguist) the old Air Signaller and WSOp (Crewman) the old Loadmaster specialisations.

Recruitment and trg of Air Engineers has now ceased. NCA applicants are now unable to join as one or other specialisation. Following a 6 week NCA Initial Trg Course (basic leadership and survival trg) they each complete a common WSOp module before being 'streamed' for the EW, Acoustic, or Crewman roles. Streaming is based upon service needs and your aptitude primarily, with personal preference a poor second place. Specific language qualifications are required for Linguist. Therefore, you will be unable to join up as a 'Crewman' per se; rather you would be a WSOp and hope to get Crewman. As the RAF is primarily short of WSOp(EW) and WSOp(Ac) rather than Crewman, you are most likely to end up based at Kinloss or Waddington on Nimrods, AWACS or Sentinel rather than as a Crewman on helos.

However, some do get it as a first tour, and the new WSOp system allows for individuals to crossover to other WSOp specialisations throughout your career. Therefore, even if you initially started out as a WSOp(EW) on AWACS, you could quite easily move acros to Crewman after a few years. However, a key point for you to consider is that WSOps are now unable to gain commissions as used to be relatively common unless they go for a full reselection to WSO and complete the full 'nav' trg course as was.

As far as I'm aware, recruitment ages for NCA are 18-around 30 (although there is a small amount of flex on the upper age). Lots of guys successfully complete NCA trg when still very young, and in my experience (and assuming that you're mature enough), the younger you are when you enter flying trg, the better you adjust to its demands. The RAF website will give you all the educational requirements, but last I heard it was 5 GCSEs (incl english lang, maths and a science subject). However, as in most things with the services, aptitude, attitude and personality count for far more during selection, trg and your subsequent career.

One final suggestion, don't discount other services for a flying career. The AAC have NCO pilots and the RN have NCO aircrewmen.

Best of luck!

Any other young person reading this who is 'air-minded' and interested in joining the RAF, AAC or FAA should try finding out about their local Air Training Corps squadron.

Aside from the DoE expeditions, Adventure Training and sports activities, joining the ATC gets you air experience flights in Grob Tutor light a/c and occasional jollies in other military aircraft.

Moreover, this Autumn the ATC North Region will be piloting a new initiative to put Aerospace Technology & Communications at the top of the ATC training agenda. The 'Vision' is for aerospace & comms competitions (e.g. design a ROV / UCAV), interest weekends and annual camps with participation from high-tech users among the armed services, as well as industry (e.g. BAe Systems, Thales). Quite a few cab rides (Merlin, C-17) are also likely, as this initiative is being supported at the highest level in the RAF.

Incidentally, I believe there are more people in the ATC nowadays than in the RAF !!! (Oh, and the cadets still turn up when it's raining.....)

To anyone trying to decide whether to join the RAF or the Army I would recommend the army.

I think I'm qualified to dish out this advice as I wasted 9 years in blue.

My mate who I went to school with also joined the RAF and is still in, he joined as a techie and when he left training was promoted to Junior Technician, after many years ( joined in 88 ) he is still a corporal , one rank higher than when he passed out of trade training. I myself was promised much on signing on but never rose above SAC , not because I was a lazy **** but because every time the goal posts got nearer some shiny arsed twat moved them. I woked with allsorts of blokes good and bad but mostly bad. The only time I learnt anything was after arriving at a new posting the rest of the time was spent following techies carrying their tools and watching them scratch their heads .

Now I'm not saying the army would have been different but after 8 years in the TA I've seen both sides of the coin.

To me the RAf is still an organisation run as an institution , an old boys club where the officers are called Rodney and the scrotes are just that, the SNCO's mess is like a retirement club becuase it takes so long to get promoted and the jnr ranks club is full to overflowing with guys trying to get over the glass ceiling

The sports good though , if you can play soccer or baby sit you're well in
If you want to speak to a current Chinook crewman get in touch and i'll pass on your details to a close friend i went through NCA training with (when it was AA not NCA)

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