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Career Progression

First tour

If you are selected for either the Weapons or Surveillance sub-specializations, you will be posted to either one of our Control and Reporting Centres (CRC) for your first tour of duty. A tour of duty (‘tour’), also known as a ‘posting’, will typically last between 18 and 24 months. The CRCs are located at RAF Boulmer and RAF Scampton in Lincolnshire. If you are streamed Space you will go to either one of our Space Operations Centres which are at RAF Fylingdales and RAF High Wycombe. During your first tour you will consolidate your initial air battle management training and develop post-graduate skills that will allow you to progress to a combat ready status and be deployed into other ABM roles and on operations.

During your first tour as either a Surveillance or Weapons officer you can expect to undertake a 4-month detachment to 303 Signals Unit (303 SU), RAF Mount Pleasant, in the Falkland Islands and, possibly, a 3-month deployment on Operation HERRICK in Afghanistan. As a Weapons Controller, you may also have the opportunity to undertake shorter detachments lasting a few weeks to various locations around the world. Previous examples have included RAF Akrotiri in Cyprus, Lithuania, Gibraltar, Exercise MAPLE FLAG in Canada and the 3-week Tactical Leadership Course in Spain.

Future Opportunities

Once trained, you will use your battle management skills in a wide variety of environments, potentially seeing you working closely with multinational aircrew, the Royal Navy, the Army or foreign military arms. As you gain experience you could be employed either as E-3D Sentry Airborne Early Warning aircraft mission crew member or as a member of Number 1 Air Command and Control Unit (No 1 ACC). No 1 ACC is the RAF’s rapidly deployable, mobile radar unit, which is currently working in support of Operation HERRICK in Afghanistan. You could also return to the SABM to instruct new students selected from the ABMFC in their new specialization. We also have a variety of exclusive exchange opportunities which include working with the United States Marine Corps, the United States Air Force Space Command in Colorado and the Royal Norwegian Air Force.

By the time you reach your third tour, you are likely to be ready to progress up the career ladder. This will involve training for the next level within your sub-specialization. As a Surveillance or Space specialist, this is likely to be training in the role of Surveillance Director (SD). As a WC, you will progress to Fighter Allocator (FA). Both SD and FA are classed as middle management roles. At this stage of your career, you will go on to develop wider ABM experience and knowledge which could lead into a number of interesting and exciting roles.

During your first tour as an SD, you could undertake a four-month operational detachment at the Combined Air and Space Operations Centre, based in Al Udeid, Qatar, as the Senior Air Defence Officer (SADO). As the SADO, you would be directly responsible to the US higher command of Operation ENDURING FREEDOM in Afghanistan, for all non-offensive or Air Defence missions within the area, as well as wider air battle management responsibilities. As an FA, you could return to 303 SU in the Falklands to complete four months as the Senior Operations Officer, working as the deputy commander of the unit.

Both FAs and SDs can go on to complete tours as a Staff Officer (Air) (SO(Air)). SO(Air) are responsible for providing air advice to Army commanders on the ground and ensuring provision of adequate air support in complex, high tempo and high pressure environments. You could also complete a full tour in support of the Army’s 16 Air Assault Brigade as a Battlespace Manager in their Air Planning Team, or, alternatively, a posting to the Joint Air Picture Provision Land Environment (JAPPLE), working to provide data-linked combat updates and a common operating picture to Army commanders and higher command elements. As a Weapons specialist, you may be able to undertake a 2-year tour afloat with the Royal Navy on one of their carriers, or at the Royal Naval Weapons Control School.

These examples are not exhaustive. Personnel have also gone on to work very closely with Special Forces or returned to the CRCs to work either as a Master Controller with overall operational control of a CRC, or in other command roles. This should give you a clear picture of why the Aerospace Battle Management Specialization is about significantly more than just Fighter Control!