Service:Fleet Air Arm
Combat and security
Merlin MK

The role at a glance

What you’ll do

As an Aircrewman in the Fleet Air Arm, you’ll be essential to our Merlin helicopter operations. This is a role with a unique level of responsibility, not least because you’ll be the only rating on board the aircraft. Once you’ve joined as an Aircrewman, you will be streamed into either an Anti-Submarine or a Commando role during your training.Whichever route you go down you’ll find yourself in the thick of the action. That means planning and executing some of our most crucial missions, from maritime surveillance to frontline combat.

If you have questions, talk to us

Your role

  • As an Anti-Submarine Warfare Aircrewman, you’ll focus on the essential airborne surveillance and detection that is so central to protecting our nation, and our fellow NATO members, against a constant threat. 
  • So much of submarine warfare is about stealth. You’ll assist your Observer by monitoring potential threats, and ensuring that they cannot remain hidden. For that reason, you’ll need to be immensely reliable and have a keen eye for detail, because if one slips through the net, your crewmates could be in danger.
  • As a Commando Aircrewman, you’ll be involved in frontline combat operations, both in support of our own forces, and those of our partners.
  • On a Commando Merlin helicopter there’s no Observer, so you’ll take on elements of that role. That means working directly with the Pilot to search for targets, and operating the weapons if needed.

What you’ll get

Skills for life

Qualifications you'll gain

  • Study for GCSEs, A-Levels, NVQs or a degree
  • Gain specialist vocational qualifications as your career progresses

Skills you'll develop

  • In the two years before you’re deployed on frontline operations, you’ll learn about how airborne missions work, and how to use our specialist equipment
  • An in-depth knowledge of avionics, from how the aircraft is prepared, to its capabilities when it’s airborne
  • A Foundation Degree in Aviation Systems Management

Career progression

What you'll need


  • You’ll need to be aged at least 15 years and 9 months old when you apply, and under 34 years old when you begin basic training
  • A high score on the Flight Aptitude Tests (FATs) is required
  • You’ll need at least 2 GCSEs at grades A-C (9-4) (or Scottish equivalent) including English and Maths
  • You must be a British or a Dual National
  • You need to be a minimum height of 151.5cm
  • A Body Mass Index (BMI) between 18 and 28 (between 17 and 27 if under 18)
  • Pass the Naval Swimming Test

Skills and interests

  • A passion for working with state-of-the-art aircraft
  • A keen attention to detail
  • Good hand-to-eye coordination
  • A willingness to learn new skills
  • An adventurous spirit



Check Eligibility

Starting your career

Joining process

Once you’ve confirmed your eligibility, the joining process is as follows:

  • Submit an application

     Once you’ve registered your interest, we’ll be in touch to discuss your options

  • Defence Aptitude Assessment (DAA)

    You’ll be tested on: Verbal Reasoning, Numerical Reasoning, Work Rate, Spatial Reasoning, Electrical Comprehension and Mechanical Comprehension.
    To prepare, you can practise the DAA 

  • Interview

    A formal interview to talk through your suitability for the role. This is normally conducted using your own device over the Shine video platform

  • Medical and eye tests

    These are quite comprehensive and must be completed by one of our Ministry of Defence-approved doctors

  • Pre-Joining Fitness Test (PJFT)

    This involves completing a 2.4km run on a treadmill within a certain time, at a fitness centre near you

  • Flight Aptitude Tests (FATs)

    These are psychometric tests to see if you have the aptitude to become an Aircrewman

  • Candidate Preparation Course (CPC)

    This four-day induction to life in the Royal Navy, including a Swimming Test and a fitness assessment, is a pass or fail course

  • Start training

    Once you’ve passed a Security Check, you’ll be offered a place at HMS Raleigh

Initial training

Your Royal Navy career begins with 10 weeks’ basic training at HMS Raleigh, a shore base in Torpoint, Cornwall. The discipline, teamwork, organisational, firefighting and weapon handling skills you learn here will stay with you right through your career.


Aim to get yourself as fit as possible before you arrive. You’ll be doing a lot of physical exercise, and you’ll find it much easier if you’re already in shape.

There's also a swimming test, so if you can't swim, make sure you learn by the time you join us.

Professional training

To qualify as an Aircrewman, you will need to complete one of our most rigorous and complex professional training programmes. You’ll start with the 40-week Joint Aircrewman Course at RAF Shawbury. After that is your role specific training, which will be dependant on your specialism. Both of these courses will include simulated and airborne helicopter flights. Anti-Submarine Aircrewman training takes place at RNAS Culdrose over 16 months, while Commando Aircrewman training is conducted at RNAS Yeovilton over 7 months.

After you’ve successfully completed your specialist course, you will be assigned to a squadron and begin your first post as a qualified Aircrewman.