Officer Aviation (OA) is the term the Royal Australian Air Force uses to group together all the officers who are responsible for the application of Air Power. The RAAF is moving away from the current term “Employment Specialisations” (Air Combat Officer, Joint Battlefield Airspace Controller and Pilot) because it can difficult for people wanting to join the RAAF to know exactly what these RAAF Officers specialise in, and in what environment they work. That’s why from May 2018 the RAAF will be introducing some terms and descriptions that will help make it clearer what RAAF OA personnel do. These new terms will be; Operational Stream, Job Type and Family.
Aside from the RAAF OA operational streams below, candidates can also be a pilot in either the Army or the Navy. Navy also has a stream called Maritime Aviation Warfare Officer (AvWO).
For more information on the Navy and Army Aviation Careers go to Defence Jobs.
Operational stream is used to identify the particular area that RAAF OA personnel specialises in once they have completed their Initial Employment Training (IET). The following is a list, and brief description, of the current streams for OA.
Fast Jet Pilot (FJP)
FJPs fly F/A-18 Hornet aircraft and F-35 Joint Strike Fighter (JSF) aircraft.
Remote Pilot (REP)
REPs pilots control Remotely Piloted Aircraft (RPA).
Fixed Wing Pilot (FWP)
The pilots who fly the remainder of the aircraft (not Fast Jet or Remote) in the RAAF are called FWPs.
Weapons Systems Officer (WSO)
WSOs operate systems from the back-seat of F/A-18F Super Hornets and F/A-18G Growlers.
Maritime Patrol and Response Officer (MRPO)
MPR OAs fill the Tactical Officer (TACCO) and CO-TACCO roles of P8 Poseidon Aircraft and other specialist surveillance aircraft.
Air Battle Manager (ABMs)
ABMs control the tactical battlespace; controlling, coordinating and integrating an array of ADF and Coalition aircraft and forces in combat operations. ABM can perform these duties from within the air environment in an E-7A Wedgetail Early Warning and Control (AEW&C) aircraft using onboard radar and sensors, or from within the ground environment using ground based radars. ABMs also conduct surveillance operations to inform and shape the mission using long-range sensors and satellite technology.
Air Traffic Controller (ATC)
RAAF Air Traffic Controllers control all Australian Defence Force (ADF) Air Bases and some joint user aerodromes within Australia (Newcastle, Townsville and Darwin). However, what makes RAAF ATC different from civil controllers in that they can also assume some control responsibilities on the battlefield such as de-confliction of artillery and air delivered weapons, and aircraft operations. RAAF ATC can also be asked to operate at short notice from established and temporary airfields anywhere within Australia and overseas.
OA job types are used to describe the environment that RAAF AOs work in, rather than an area of specialisation. The three job types will be Pilot, Mission Aircrew and Mission Controller. The working environment for a pilot is in the cockpit, manipulating the flight controls of the aircraft. Mission Aircrew will also perform their duties as part of the crew of an aircraft, but will not be flying the aircraft. Mission Controllers will perform their duties from within the ground environment. Some streams such as ABM or ATC may work in either the ground or air environment.
The RAAF uses the term Family to identify, at the broadest level, the occupations that perform similar roles. In the RAAF, all Officers who are responsible for the application of airpower belong to the Officer Aviation (OA) Family of Streams.
During the recruiting process candidates will be asked for their OA job type preference and their preference for the type of officer intake (Direct entry or Australian Defence Force Academy entry). This is just to get an indication of the type of aviation environment that they are interested in but it doesn’t change the selection process. As the three job types indicate the environment that OA personnel will work in, the job types also have different medical requirements, therefore someone who may have a medical condition that prevents them from being a pilot or mission aircrew, may still be able to be a Mission Controller.
Since the RAAF does not recruit to particular job streams, if candidates are successful in their application they will appointed to the RAAF as part of the Officer Aviation Family and their letter of offer will indicate; the type of officer intake, the pathway will be into the Air Academy, and any restriction of employment.
Who can become Officer Aviation?
Contrary to popular belief, the Air Force is not necessarily looking for someone who is at the top of the class academically or the sporting team super star. Instead, Air Force seeks good all-rounders. That is people who can adapt to new situations quickly, who can think logically and make decisions, and who have a broad range of interests and abilities. Candidates don’t need any technical expertise or flying experience to apply to be an OA in the RAAF. There are no restrictions on the employment of females in the Air Force and no matter what operational stream, the RAAF will supply all the training needed to succeed. What candidates will need is confidence, a sense of competitiveness, commitment to a long journey of training and study, and a dogged determination to succeed. A sense of humour will also help to get through the intense training and critique that is involved along the way.