The specialisation of Air Traffic & Weapons Controller is part of the Air & Space Ops Profession within the RAF, which also includes Air and Space Operations Specialists, Air Cartographers and Firefighters.
Air Traffic & Weapons Controller is a diverse, exciting and complex role which directs and supports operations both in the UK and around the world. Primarily, your job will be to control military aircraft whilst leading and managing a team of fellow Air and Space Operations specialists.
As a member of the Royal Air Force, you could find yourself operating from a field, a bunker, a building, a tent, from the back of a plane or even an aircraft carrier. Regardless, you will be part of a varied and stimulating organisation which offers an excellent career and worldwide employment opportunities that is at the heart of the RAF’s flying output.
There are three key employment areas you could find yourself working in:
TERMINAL AIR TRAFFIC CONTROL
providing Air Traffic Control services to aircraft operating at or near RAF stations around the world. As a Terminal Air Traffic Controller your role will be to:
- Safely integrate military and civilian aircraft departing from and arriving at military airfields or delivering radar services from a Tactical Air Traffic Control Centre
- Deploying on operations to provide terminal control to aircraft operating in and around UK or multi-national bases
- Train to become a Tactical Air Traffic Controller as a member of a team that establishes and controls tactical landing zones in austere locations in support of multiple agencies including UK Special Forces.
where you’ll direct and control fast jet aircraft to intercept potentially hostile aircraft that threaten UK Airspace or in complex air-to-air exercises. As a Weapons Controller, you’ll find yourself:
- At the forefront of UK Air Defence ensuring Quick Reaction Alert (QRA) aircraft receive all the safety and tactical information they require to reach their target as the only controller in a team of personnel
- Controlling and managing friendly fast jet and tanker aircraft in mock air-to-air battles day to day and on a larger scale on exercises in the UK and overseas
- Having the opportunity to carry out the same role on board the E-7 Wedgetail Airborne Early Warning aircraft, working directly alongside aircrew.
working alongside civilian air traffic controllers at the UK’s Air Traffic Control Centre at Swanwick where you will control military aircraft across the country by radar. In this role, you’ll find yourself:
- Safely deconflicting military and civil aircraft as they transit to and from their destinations/operating areas
- Operating in conjunction with both Terminal Air Traffic Controllers and Weapons Controllers to get aircraft in the air and into exercises areas amongst extremely high levels of air traffic
- Providing Air Traffic Services to QRA aircraft as they transit over the UK mainland in close cooperation with Weapons Controllers.
Whichever employment area you end up in, as an Air Traffic & Weapons Controller you will carry out your primary role in addition to having line management responsibilities that will increase as your career progresses, initially managing and supervising small teams.
- Coordinate air traffic to and from military airfields.
- Become part of the team that order Typhoon jets to scramble and intercept suspect aircraft.
- Control fighter, bomber, surveillance, refuelling and even unmanned aircraft as they support a number of different training and operational tasks
- Work alongside civilian controllers as an Area Radar controller ensuring military aircraft operate safely amongst civilian airliners in the UK’s congested airspace
- Provide specialist battlespace management support to both UK and multi-national exercises and operations around the world
- Deploy on military operations as part of the Tactical Air Traffic Control team that establishes temporary runways in austere locations in support of a number of agencies including UK Special Forces
RECRUIT & NON-COMMISSIONED OFFICER TRAINING
As a direct entrant Air Traffic & Weapons Controller, your career will start with a 10-week Basic Recruit Training Course (BRTC) at RAF Halton in Buckinghamshire. The course is designed to help you adjust to a military environment. As well as fitness and military training, you will also learn about service life.
Following the Basic Recruit Training Course, prospective Sergeants will complete the Direct Entrant Senior Non-Commissioned Officer (DE SNCO) Course at the Aviator Command Squadron (ACS) at RAF Halton. This 8-week training programme will develop the student's knowledge of leadership within the RAF and increase their understanding of their management responsibilities as Senior Non-Commissioned Officers (SNCOs). The course includes Air Power academic study, Practical Leadership Exercises, an Appraisal Workshop, Interview Techniques and Fitness Development. At the end of the course, students are promoted to Acting Sergeant.
Specialist training is delivered at the Defence College of Air and Space Operations at RAF Shawbury in Shropshire and subsequently for Weapons Controllers at RAF Boulmer in Northumberland.
This training starts with a a Foundation Module and is completed alongside Air Operations (Systems) Officers, Air Ops (Control) Officers and Air Traffic & Weapons Controllers. Following successful completion, you will be assigned to a specialist module in one of the core specialisations: Terminal (Airfield) ATC or Weapons Control. Prospective Weapons Controllers will carry out the last part of their training at RAF Boulmer in Northumberland.
You could return at a later date to complete a short conversion course to allow you to undertake roles in the other core areas including Area Radar control.
Following successful completion of your specialist training, your first tour will last approximately 3-5 years and where you go will depend on your specialisation. Terminal Air Traffic Controllers will go to one of the RAF's airfields around the UK or in Cyprus, whilst Area Controllers are employed at RAF(U) Swanwick and Weapons Controllers at RAF Boulmer. Once fully qualified in your chosen employment area, you will become available to deploy on military operations anywhere in the world.
As a Sergeant, your leadership and management skills will be continually developed alongside your specialist knowledge. By the end of your first tour, you will be an experienced controller ready to take on your next role.
Subsequent tours of duty may see you being employed in a wide variety of areas, including:
• As Mission Crew on board the E-7 Wedgetail Airborne Early Warning aircraft
• Part of the UK’s deployable ground-based command and control squadron, operating from RAF Boulmer
• As a Fighter Allocator, supervising a team of Weapons Controllers of all ranks
• One of the other controller employment areas
• Instructing and mentoring new officer cadets at RAF Leadership College Cranwell or new recruits at RAF Halton, or even new controllers at RAF Shawbury / RAF Boulmer.
YOUR FUTURE CAREER PROSPECTS/PROGRESSION
You will join the RAF as an aviator 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.
Entering as a direct entrant Sergeant, competitive promotion to Flight Sergeant is the next step in your career along with more supervisory controlling related roles. As an Air Traffic & Weapons Controller, you will spend most of your career carrying out your primary role as a controller, becoming a subject matter expert, heavily relied upon by your unit.
Throughout your career you may be selected for advancement to intermediate line management roles, responsible for supervising and guiding the Specialists within your team and ensuring their welfare and career management needs are met. You should expect operational deployments of up to 6 months to a range of locations worldwide, in addition to ad-hoc shorter detachments to locations such as Cyprus, Falkland Islands, Lithuania, Japan, Gibraltar, Canada, Spain, the United Arab Emirates, Malaysia and the USA.
As an Air Traffic & Weapons Controller, you will obtain a range of transferable skills including advanced leadership (CMI Accredited), change and project management and the opportunity for further academic development. These skills and your experience could equip you for a variety of civilian jobs that involve dynamic supervisory or management responsibilities, such as working within the transportation division of the Public Sector or within an emergency response control centre. Your experience in high pressure situations would make you an ideal candidate for operations management roles as a civilian.
Professions in the RAF are distinct areas of defence expertise where common skills and attributes are required to deliver on demand. Service Personnel may be employed in any of the specialisations within their Profession depending upon the Service need, but we’ll take into account the aptitude, qualifications and career aspirations of our personnel.