Aircrew Officer Observer

Service:Fleet Air Arm
Combat and security
Hands on
Observer disembarking helicopter

The role at a glance

What you’ll do

As an Observer in the Royal Navy you’ll be a key part of a flight crew. And that means whichever of our helicopters you’re working with, you’ll navigate, operate communications systems and even control the weaponry. You’ll need to be constantly aware of, and in control of, your surroundings. But you’ll do much more than that too. So much more. It’s how you use your second-to-none navigation skills and technical knowledge that counts. Wherever you are in the world, and whatever the challenge is, you’ll need to rise to it without fail. 

If you have questions, talk to us

Your role

  • Be an integral part of a flight crew, coordinating and executing vital missions, all over the world.
  • Specialise on one of our three types of helicopter. You could become an expert in anti-submarine warfare on a Merlin, qualify as a fighter controller on a Sea King, or even work alongside the Pilot on our new two-man Wildcat. 
  • Be assigned to a flight, with a Pilot, Aircraft Controller, and team of Engineers, working together on multiple missions.
  • Master tactical and technical skills over a two-year training period. 

What you’ll get

Skills for life

Qualifications you'll gain

  • Study for GCSEs, A-Levels, NVQs or even a degree, with funding from us
  • A Foundation Degree in Aviation Systems Management as you progress through your professional training/career

Skills you'll develop

  • How to navigate, operate communication systems, and even man the weapons
  • How to apply your knowledge and expertise to state-of-the-art aviation equipment

Career progression

What you'll need


  • You must be aged 17 to 34
  • You’ll need a minimum of 96 UCAS points. These can be accrued from either GCE A/AS levels (or equivalent) or National Diplomas (e.g. BTEC)
  • You’ll need at least 5 GCSEs at grades A-C (9-4) (or Scottish equivalent), which must include English and Mathematics at grade B/6 or above
  • A British or Dual British/USA only who has lived in the UK continuously for the 5 years prior to applying
  • A minimum height of 151.5cm
  • A Body Mass Index (BMI) between 18 and 28 (between 17 and 27 if under 18)
  • Must pass CBAT. Specialist Aviation Medical at OASC, RAF Cranwell post AIB.
  • Pass the Naval Swimming Test

Skills and interests

  • An ability to thrive on responsibility
  • A calmness under pressure
  • A confident multi-tasker
  • Have a high level of numeracy
  • Reliable and extremely professional


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

  • Naval Service Recruitment Test (NSRT)

    You’ll be tested on general reasoning, verbal ability, numeracy and mechanical comprehension

  • Interview

    A formal interview to talk through your suitability for the role

  • 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

  • Interview 

    You’ll have a short interview to assess your suitability for a career in the Royal Navy, and to ensure you’re ready for the Admiralty Interview Board (AIB)

  • Admiralty Interview Board (AIB)

    This stage is unique to officers and takes place over a day and a half. It’s a competency-based assessment that confirms that you’re physically and mentally ready to become a Royal Navy Officer

Initial training

Before you begin your initial training, you’ll need to take Flying Aptitude Tests (FATs) at RAF Cranwell in Lincolnshire. These assess your ability to cope with the rigours of flying training. You’ll then progress to Britannia Royal Naval College (BRNC) in Dartmouth, where you’ll spend 30 weeks, focusing on: military skills, maritime skills and initial fleet time. The military skills phase includes learning about leadership and teamwork, and the principles of command and management. You will put this into practice during several exercises on Dartmoor.

After you’ve passed out of BRNC, you will spend a further 15 weeks learning about our aircraft. At the end of this stage, you’ll go through grading. This is a set of tests that determines your suitability for your specialisation.

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

Professional training

Once you’ve completed grading, you’ll begin your General Observer Training at RNAS Culdrose. During this time, you’ll the required number of flying hours under your belt, and gain an in-depth understanding of Naval flight. After that, you’ll specialise in a particular type of helicopter, spending a further year gaining hands-on experience.