1.0     Introduction

This article provides the reader with information on the Royal Air Force’s (RAFs) Phase 2 Specialist training and Phase 3 Career training.

Phase 2 Training is an ‘initial’ specialist training programme which prepares Service personnel for their first employment. (It normally follows on from Phase 1 Training, which is initial training in the basic military skills required by all Service personnel).

Phase 3 Training prepares Service personnel for further employment with increased skill base and/or responsibility. It also encompasses training to meet career aspirations and professional development.

The RAF is divided into ‘groups’ and then into ‘wings’. These are put together from two or more squadrons – the basic organisational units of the RAF.

The RAF is made up of both Commissioned Officers and Other Ranks (known as Airmen/Airwomen).

This article is structured as follows:

  • Part One: Introduction
  • Part Two: Job Categories
  • Part Three: Training Hierarchy
  • Part Four: Organisation of Training
  • Part Five: Oversight and Instructor Training

On 08 July 2016, the MOD announced that all Ground Close Combat Roles (RAC, Infantry, Royal Marines and the RAF Regiment) would be opened to women by 2018 (British Army, 2016).


2.0     Royal Air Force Job Categories

The RAF offers a wide range of career options, with approximately 50 careers to choose from. The RAF is more than just pilots and aircraft, there is a broad spectrum of roles that makeup the RAF team. The RAF requires people to keep the aircraft in good condition, people to keep bases secure, people to publicise what the RAF does, people to transport equipment and supplies, people to train personnel, people to look after everyone’s health (you get the gist).

Although, a majority of roles not front-line fighting roles, the RAF is an expeditionary force so, whichever career an individual chooses, they need to be aware that there is the possibility they could be sent abroad to work in conflict situations.

With so many career paths to choose from, there is also a range of entry requirements. Individuals could be any level, from a school leaver with no formal qualifications, to a qualified professional. Also, after Phase 1 initial training and Phase 2 specialist training there are always opportunities to learn new skills, gain qualifications recognised by civilian employers, and develop a career in a new direction.

Careers in the RAF fit into one of four categories:

  1. Officers;
  2. Non-Commissioned Aircrew (NCA);
  3. Airmen/Airwomen; and
  4. RAF Regiment

2.1     Officers

These are the RAFs equivalent of senior managers or team leaders, with approximately 20 jobs available covering a wide range of skills, for example Dental Officer, Logistics Officer or Pilot.

On successful completion of Initial Officer Training (IOT), individuals will move on to their Phase 2 specialist training. Officers continue to have regular training and assessment throughout their career. As a professionally qualified officer (e.g. a Medical or Legal Officer), the initial training course is shortened to 11 weeks, but individuals still receive a thorough grounding in RAF knowledge and military skills to prepare them for the challenges ahead.

Individuals do not have to be a graduate to be an officer; individuals just need to display the attributes for their particular role. Individuals joining the RAF as an Airman/Airwoman, Non-Commissioned Aircrew or Air Traffic Controller, there may also be opportunities for them to earn a Queen’s commission and become an officer at a later date.

2.2     Non-Commissioned Aircrew (NCA)

There are four Weapon Systems Operator (WSOp) roles and, depending on an individual’s qualifications, they could move between them during their career:

  1. Weapon Systems Operators (Acoustic): use sonar technology to locate and track submarines and ships.
  2. Weapon Systems Operators (Crewman): are responsible for making sure that loads and passengers are carried safely on either fixed-wing or rotary aircraft.
  3. Weapon Systems Operators (Electronic Warfare): operate radar systems to survey air and surface activity.
  4. Weapon Systems Operators (Linguist): analyse foreign language radio emissions, providing military commanders with combat support.

Non-Commissioned Aircrew have only three ranks in their career structure: Sergeant (Aircrew); Flight Sergeant (Aircrew); and Master Aircrew. Training can take as long as three years to complete but individuals will start at the rank of Sergeant.

2.3     Airmen/Airwomen

The majority of RAF personnel are Airmen and Airwomen, who are employed in a wide range of ground support roles, utilising specialist skills. There are approximately three dozen different jobs to choose from, anything from medical support to aircraft maintenance, administration to logistics.

Individuals have the rank of Aircraftman/Aircraftwoman during Phase 1 initial training. Promotion to Leading Aircraftman/Aircraftwoman occurs after six months or on completion of Phase 2 Specialist ‘trade’ training, whichever occurs first. Individuals will normally be promoted to Senior Aircraftman/Aircraftwoman after they have passed a trade ability test and have completed one year’s total service. Promotion to Corporal and above is by competitive selection.

2.4     RAF Regiment

The RAF Regiment is the RAF’s specialist fighting force, protecting people, aircraft and bases around the world. They can parachute into enemy territory, secure airfields and are often the first forces into battle.

RAF Regiment personnel carry out operations all over the world, from close protection services to reconnaissance missions, ground patrols and front-line combat. Both Officers and Gunners are part of a close-knit, professional organisation that puts a high premium on teamwork, loyalty, determination and physical fitness.


3.o     Deputy Commander Capability and Air Member for Personnel and Capability

The Deputy Commander Capability and Air Member for Personnel and Capability (DCom Cap and AMP&C) is an RAF officer with the rank of Air Marshal.

As the DCom Cap the post holder has responsibility for No 22 (Training) Group and personnel management functions. As the AMP&C, the post holder is the senior RAF officer responsible for personnel matters and is a member of the Air Force Board. The AMP&C is in charge of all aspects of recruiting, non-operational flying and ground training, career management, welfare, terms and conditions of service, and resettlement for RAF regular, reserve and civilian staffs worldwide.

3.1     Air Officer Commanding No 22 (Training) Group and Chief of Staff, Training

The Air Officer Commanding (AOC) No 22 (Training) Group, an Air Vice-Marshal, is the head of No 22 (Training) Group which exists to recruit and train RAF personnel and provide trained specialist personnel to the RAF and the other two Services.

3.2     No 22 (Training) Group

The role of No 22 (Training) Group, ‘The Group’, is to deliver individual training and education services for the RAF and elements of the Naval Service and British Army, in order to underpin the military effectiveness of Defence. If fulfils this role through recruiting RAF personnel and providing trained specialist personnel to the RAF and the other two Services (such as providing the Army Air Corps with trained Helicopter pilots).

With an annual budget of some £435 million (excluding service pay) the Group has a staff of over 7,500 with an annual through put of around 55,000 trainees. The Group operates around 450 training aircraft across 8 major sites in the UK and many smaller centres.

In addition, the Head of No 22 (Training) Group – in the role of Chief of Staff, Training – is responsible for ‘through-life’ training for RAF personnel.

The Group has a number of primary functions:

  • Recruitment and selection of individuals to join the Royal Air Force;
  • Running the Air Cadets Organisation (ACO);
  • Initial training for officers and non-commissioned aircrew at the RAF College Cranwell;
  • Initial training for airmen and airwomen at RAF Halton
  • Providing training to personnel from all three Services mainly in the following areas:
    • Aeronautical Engineering training
    • Communications and Information Systems training
    • Flying training for all types of aircraft (rotary wing, fast jet, multi-engine aircraft).
  • Operating the Royal Air Force Aerobatic Team (RAFAT), better known as The Red Arrows.

The Group is split into six areas as follows:

  • Assistant Chief of Staff Training (ACOS Trg)
  • Directorate of Recruitment and Initial Training (DRIT)
  • Directorate of Flying Training (DFT)
  • Air Cadets Organisation (ACO)
  • Defence College of Technical Training (DCTT)
  • Defence Technical Training Change Programme (DTTCP)

3.3     Assistant Chief of Staff, Training

The Assistant Chief of Staff (ACOS) Training, an Air Commodore, is responsible for the following areas:

  • Corporate Business;
  • Training Plans;
  • Training Management; and
  • Generic Education and Training Centre.

3.3.1  Corporate Business

Corporate Business is responsible for:

  • The co-ordination of No 22 (Training) Group business, including assimilation of briefing material, cross briefings, Investors in People (IiP), and Communications Strategy and Information Management.
  • Strategy and advice to No 22 (Training) Group members and the No 22 (Training) Group Command Board on No 22 (Training) Group Continuous Improvement.
  • The formulation and implementation of the No 22 (Training) Group Business Continuity Plan.
  • The development of No 22 (Training) Group Estate Strategy.
  • Future Strategy for the Air Cadet Organisation.
  • International Defence Training (IDT): training in support of Defence Diplomacy and marketing and selling spare RAF training capacity to UK and overseas customers.
  • Providing a graphics design, multimedia, photography and video service to No 22 (Training) Group and the wider RAF.
  • Providing a modern photocopying and printing service to Air Command at RAF High Wycombe.

3.3.2  Training Plans

Training Plans are responsible for developing and implementing RAF formal individual training/education policy and strategy. The main areas of responsibility are:

  • Training Policy;
  • Accreditation;
  • Audit and evaluation;
  • Training requirements & pipeline management; and
  • Command and control of the Training Analysis Centre located at RAF Halton.

3.3.3  Training Management

The responsibilities of Training Management include the implementation of new, or revised, training i.e. training that is not formal trade or branch training. Such training can be individual or collective. DACOS TM has command and control responsibility for the School of Physical Training at Cosford and for the Force Development Training Centres at Grantown-on Spey, Fairbourne, Crickhowell and the Joint Services Adventurous Training Unit at Llanrwst. The Defence Survival Evasion Resistance and Extraction Training Organisation with units based at HMS Sultan, RAF St Mawgan and Chicksands is also under DACOS TM command.

Specific responsibilities include:

  • Conducting Staff Advisory Visits in respect of physical education (PEd) and training development (TD) activity on all RAF stations and units (including OCUs);
  • Management and development of Survival, Evasion, Resistance, Extraction (SERE) Training;
  • Provision of Force Development Training capacity for all phases of training;
  • Management of Adventurous Training;
  • RAF Fitness Training Policy; and
  • Determining and staging Continued Professional Development (CPD) programmes for Administration (Training) officers, Physical Education officers (PEdOs), and Physical Training Instructors (PTIs), as well as overseeing PEd and PTI selection and formal training.

3.3.4  Generic Education and Training Centre

The increasingly complex and dynamic environment facing the UK today and in the future necessitates greater investment in education and skills development of RAF personnel. Having studied the requirements in detail, the Generic and Education and Training Centre (GETC) are now responsible for managing the introduction of improvements to generic development. The term generic relates to all the skills, knowledge and attitudes that are common to personnel at each rank, irrespective of their particular specialisation.

The GETC was formed on 01 October 2007 through amalgamation of the RAF Leadership Centre, Air Warfare Training Management Team, Force Development (FD) Support Group and the 22 (Training) Group Generic Training staffs.

The GETC are responsible for the introduction of the RAF pattern of Professional Military Development (PMD) (Air) for office and airmen to ensure sufficient formal learning opportunities are embedded into routine activity and career development courses. GETC are also responsible for making maximum use of blended learning techniques to support short timely and regular mandatory educational uplifts. This will be achieved by:

  • Utilising residential courses, on-unit face to face (and FD) activities, tutor supported distance learning and e-learning;
  • Introduction of a warrant officer development programme;
  • Re-profiling the junior officer command and staff training course; and
  • Re-profiling and extending senior officer command staff training course.

Finally, the GETC are responsible for the introduction of effective communications training for all personnel. The creation of the Generic Education and Training Requirement (GETR) that identifies the breath, depth and timing of the necessary learning event and indicates the associated methods of delivery.

3.4     Training Analysis Centre

The Training Analysis Centre (TAC), based at RAF Halton, is the lead RAF organisation for training analysis and contributes to the operational effectiveness of the RAF through the robust analysis of jobs and tasks to underpin current and future training requirements for ground trades and branches.

Through this detailed analysis the TAC produces descriptions of the necessary skills and abilities for personnel to be able to undertake their duties. These requirements are identified in either an Operational Performance Statement (OPS) or Competency Framework (CF). From these requirements, appropriate training can then be designed.

The TAC also assists sponsors in writing tender specifications and assessing tenders for the training elements of proposed contracts with non-MoD suppliers. When resources permit, the TAC is also involved in the evaluation of training (ensuring that training objectives continue to accurately, and most cost-effectively, reflect the needs of the workforce). The TAC is responsible for the production of OPS’ and CFs’ for airman and officers in the ground trades and branches excluding the medical, musician and fire-fighter specialisations.


4.0     Phase 2 & 3 Training by School and Station

  1. Defence Flying Training (DFT):
  2. Defence College of Technical Training (DCTT):
    1. Defence School of Aeronautical Engineering (DSAE):
      1. Headquarters DSAE
      2. RAF Aerosystems Engineer and Management Training School
      3. The RAF No 1 School of Technical Training (No1 SofTT): consisting of Headquarters, Trenchard Squadron, 238 Squadron, Mechanical Training Squadron & Aerosystems Training Squadron
      4. Defence School of Photography
      5. RAF School of Physical Training
      6. DSAE Satellite Sites: incorporating DSAE (Gosport) element, DSAE (Arborfield) in conjunction with the Technology Branch & DSAE (Cranwell).
    2. Defence School of Communications and Information Systems (DSCIS):
      1. Headquarters DSCIS
      2. 11 Signal Regiment, Royal School of Signals
      3. No 1 Radio School
      4. Royal Navy CIS Training Unit
    3. Defence School of Electro-Mechanical Engineering (DSEME):
      1. Headquarters DSEME
      2. Royal Navy School of Marine Engineering
      3. School of Electrical and Mechanical Engineering
      4. The School of Electronic and Aeronautical Engineering
      5. No 4 School of Technical Training
      6. REME Arms School
    4. Defence School of Marine Engineering
  3. RAF Cosford:
    1. Responsible for the provision of all Phase 2 and some Phase 3 training for the RAF trade specialisations of Aeronautical Engineering, Information and Communication Technology and Physical Training; the Defence school provides training in photography for the three Services. Following their Initial Officer Training at RAF College Cranwell, future RAF Engineer officers also receive their Phase 2 specialist training at RAF Cosford.
  4. RAF Cranwell:
    1. RAF Leadership Centre
    2. Air Warfare Training Management Team
    3. Force Development Support Group
    4. The Central Flying School:
      1. The CFS Examining Wing
      2. The RAF Aerobatic Team
      3. The CFS Tutor Squadron
      4. The CFS Tucano Squadron
      5. The CFS Hawk Squadron)
  5. RAF Benson:
    1. Medium Support Helicopter Aircrew Training Facility
  6. RAF Barkston Heath:
    1. Joint Elementary Flying Training School
  7. RAF Boulmer:
    1. School of Aerospace Battle Management
      1. Initial Training Squadron
      2. Advanced Training Squadron
      3. Internal Assurance Squadron
  8. RAF Brize Norton:
    1. Airborne Delivery Wing:
      1. Safety Training, Assurance and Regulations (STAR) cell
      2. Parachute Training School (Military Training Flight, Continuation Training Flight, Instructor Training Flight & Parachute Jumping Instructors (PJI) Course)
      3. Standards and Evaluation (Not under Direct Command of ADW)
    2. Mechanical Transport Training and Standards Flight:
      1. Airfield Specialist Vehicles (STS)
      2. Air Cargo Handling Equipment (ACHE)
      3. MT Training & Licensing (MT T&L)
  9. RAF Church Fenton:
    1. 3 Squadron of No. 1 Elementary Flying Training School and Yorkshire Universities Air Squadron, flying Tutor T1s, and serves as a relief landing ground for Tucano T1s from RAF Linton-on-Ouse.
  10. JSSO Digby:
    1. Aerial Erector School
  11. RAF Halton:
    1. Defence Centre of Training Support
    2. Training Analysis Centre (discussed above in Section 3.5).
    3. Airmen’s Command Squadron
    4. Supply and Management Training Wing
    5. Specialist Training School
  12. RAF Honington:
    1. RAF Force Protection Centre
    2. Ground Defence Training Flight
    3. RAF Regiment Training Wing:
      1. Headquarters Squadron
      2. Regiment Training Squadron (Advanced) (RTS(A)): consisting of Junior Regiment Officers Course (JROC), Further Training 1 (FT1) & Further Training 2 (FT2).
      3. Regiment Training Squadron (Basics) (RTS(B)), consisting of: Phase 1 and 2 of RAF Regiment Gunner training.
      4. Regiment Training Squadron (Continuation) (RTS(C)), consisting of: Signals Training Flight (STF) & Field Training Flight (FTF)
  13. RAF Leeming:
    1. Joint Forward Air Controller Training and Standards Unit
  14. RAF Linton on Ouse:
    1. Operations Wing (ensuring the operational capability of No 1 Flying Training School (FTS)) and provides training to 1 FTS service personnel that includes Common Core Skills, first-aid, live-armed guard and post crash management.
    2. 71 (Reserve) Squadron composed of: A Flight; B Flight; CFS Flight; and the Groundschool.
    3. The Central Flying School Tucano Squadron: forms part of the CFS Examining Wing but is a lodger unit within RAF Linton on Ouse.
  15. RAF Lossiemouth:
    1. XV (Reserve) Squadron
  16. RAF Marham:
    1. Tornado Maintenance School
    2. Forward Engineering Squadron:
      1. Ground Engineering Maintenance Flight (GEMF)
      2. Ground Engineering Support Flight (GESF)
      3. Engineering Support Flight (ESF).
    3. Forward Engineering Squadron Training Cell
    4. The Engineering and Logistics Wing Training Cell
  17. RAF Mona:
    1. Acts as a Relief Landing Ground for the Hawk T1/T1As operating from No 4 Flying Training School based at RAF Valley.
  18. RAF Shawbury:
    1. Air Traffic Management Standards and Evaluation
    2. Central Flying School (Helicopters) Examining Squadron
    3. Defence Helicopter Flying School
    4. Central Air Traffic Control School
  19. RAF Spadeadam:
    1. Emitter Training School
  20. RAF St Mawgan:
    1. Defence Survival, Evasion, Resistance, Extraction (SERE) Training Organisation (aka DSTO)
  21. RAF Syerston:
    1. Currently a satellite airfield of RAF College Cranwell and home to the RAF Central Gliding School (CGS), part of 3 Flying Training School.
  22. RAF Topcliffe:
    1. Is a satellite airfield of RAF Linton on Ouse.
  23. RAF Valley:
    1. No 4 Flying Training School
    2. Search and Rescue Training Unit
    3. The Central Flying School Hawk Squadron
  24. RAF Waddington:
    1. 54 (Reserve) Squadron
    2. Air Battlespace Training Centre
  25. RAF Wyton:
    1. 57 (Reserve) Squadron, No 3 Elementary Flying Training School;

5.0     Phase 2 & 3 Training by Role

From a career perspective the RAF offers a variety of roles which are categorised into one of eight groupings (click on a job title for further information):

  1. Aircrew: Pilot; Weapon Systems Operator; & Weapon Systems Operator (Linguist)
  2. Air Operations Support: Aerospace Battle Manager; Aerospace Systems Operator; Air Cartographer; Air Traffic Control Officer; Air Traffic Controller; Flight Operations Assistant; & Flight Operations Officer.
  3. Communications and Intelligence: Communication Infrastructure Technician; ICT Technician; Intelligence Analyst; Intelligence Analyst (Voice); Intelligence Officer; & Photographer.
  4. Force Protection: Firefighter; RAF Police; RAF Police Officer; RAF Regiment Gunner; & RAF Regiment Officer.
  5. Logistics: Catering & Hospitality Specialist, Chef, Driver, Logistics Officer, Mover & Supply Storage and Distribution Specialist.
  6. Medical and Medical Support: Biomedical Scientist; Dental Nurse; Dental Officer; Environmental health Technician; Medical Officer; Medical Support Officer; Medical Support Officer (Physio); Nursing Officer; Operating Department Practitioner; Pharmacy Technician; Radiographer; RAF Medic; Registered Nurse (Adult); Registered Nurse (Mental Health); & Student Nurse (Adult).
  7. Personnel Support: Chaplain; Human Resources; Legal Officer; Musician; Personnel Officer; & Physical Training Instructor (PTI).
  8. Technical and Engineering: Aircraft Technician (Avionics); Aircraft Technician (Mechanical); Electrician; Engineer Officer; General Technician Workshops; Survival Equipment Specialist; Vehicle & Mechanical Equipment Technician & Weapon Technician.


6.0     Annual Formal Inspection

An Annual Formal Inspection (AFI) is carried out by the AOC No 22 (Training) Group and encompasses a range of activities, briefings and meetings on RAF stations which are encapsulated within the training remit of the AOC.

7.0     Reference

British Army (2016) Ground Close Combat Roles Open To Women. Available from World Wide Web: [Accessed: 08 August, 2016].


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