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Air combat officer

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Summary of occupation

Air combat officers manage and organise Royal Australian Air Force (RAAF) combat missions, ensuring that missions are successfully completed in the most efficient and safest manner. They make real-time command and control decisions regarding the movements and actions undertaken by combat forces. They perform surveillance and control duties on the ground and in the air to locate and identify air and surface targets, disseminate this information to associated units, operate mission systems, undertake search and rescue missions, detect and identify warships, illegal fishing boats and merchant vessels, and offer tactical support to combat missions.

ANZSCO description: Air Combat Officers undertake a range of peacetime and wartime tasks and duties related to the operation of the Royal Australian Air Force. Air Defence Officer, Air Force Officer, Airborne Electronics Officer, Navigator, Royal Air Force (RAF) Officer
Alternative names: Air Defence Officer, Air Force Officer, Airborne Electronics Officer, Navigator, Royal Air Force (RAF) Officer
Specialisations: Air Battle Management Officer, Air Combat/Tactical Support Officer, Maritime Patrol and Response Officer
Job prospects: Average
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Knowledge, skills and attributes

An air combat officer needs:

  • to meet strict aptitude and medical requirements
  • the ability to motivate and lead others
  • the ability to make decisions quickly
  • technical aptitude
  • the ability to accept responsibility
  • to be at least 17 years of age
  • to be an Australian citizen or permanent resident.
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Working conditions

Air combat officers often work in stressful combat situations and may be required to make decisions that affect the personal safety of others. They work in all types of conditions during combat missions. They work irregular hours and have to do shift work. Air combat officers may work at one of the many RAAF facilities around the state, either in metropolitan or regional areas.

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Salary details

Trainee air combat officer recruits undertaking officer training can expect to earn at least $767 per week ($39 891 per year), including the Trainee Service Allowance. Air Force officer graduates can expect to earn at least $1 393 per week ($72 446 per year) (including the Service Allowance), depending on their duties, rank, role and level of experience.

As an air combat officer gains experience and progresses through the ranks their pay rate increases. Salary may also vary based on your deployment location and conditions.

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Tools and technologies

Air combat officers use a range of air combat equipment and mission systems including aircraft systems, electronic warfare equipment, radar and infra-red targeting systems and weaponry.

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Education and training/entrance requirements

To become an air combat officer in the Australian Defence Force you can choose from multiple entry pathways. You can apply for: 

  • direct entry through the Officer Training School in Gippsland, for people without a degree,
  • a degree program through the Australian Defence Force Academy (ADFA) in Canberra,
  • a Defence University Sponsorship in a specifically approved field of study, and complete your undergraduate degree at a university of your choice, or
  • a Graduate Officer position, if you have already completed a university degree in a specialist field such as medicine, nursing, dentistry, law or chaplaincy.  

To apply to the Air Force, you will need to undergo a series of written, physical, psychological and medical checks and interviews. You will also need to undergo a National Police History Check and pass the Officer Selection Board. 

Successful applicants are required to complete a 17 week Initial Officer Course, followed by an Air Combat Officer (ACO) course at RAAF Base East Sale, in Gippsland, Victoria. Following graduation from the ACO training, air combat officers progress into their chosen specialisation within the Royal Australian Air Force.

You can also become an air combat officer on a part time basis in the Air Force Reserves. 

The entry requirements for these streams and specialist roles will be different. Visit the Defence Force Recruiting Centre website for more information.

Related courses

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Apprenticeships and traineeships

As an apprentice or trainee, you enter into a formal training contract with an employer. You spend most of your time working and learning practical skills on the job and you spend some time undertaking structured training with a registered training provider of your choice. They will assess your skills and when you are competent in all areas, you will be awarded a nationally recognised qualification.

If you are still at school you can access an apprenticeship through your school. You generally start your school based apprenticeship by attending school three days a week, spending one day at a registered training organisation and one day at work. Talk to your school's VET Co-ordinator to start your training now through VET in Schools. If you get a full-time apprenticeship you can apply to leave school before reaching the school leaving age.

If you are no longer at school you can apply for an apprenticeship or traineeship and get paid while you learn and work.

Related apprenticeships

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Recognition of prior learning

If you think you already have some of the skills or competencies, obtained either through non-formal or informal learning, you may be able to gain credit through recognition of prior learning.

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