Becoming an Air Combat Officer

As a Royal Australian Air Force Air Combat Officer (ACO), you'll operate some of the most sophisticated electronic systems and sensors in use today, and make mission-critical command decisions. In either an airborne or ground-based role, you'll receive and interpret intelligence and work in parallel with Pilots to carry out a wide variety of operations.

As an ACO you will be trained to work in one of three streams:

  • Air Combat, where your “office” will be in the back seat of a F/A-18 Super Hornet,
  • Maritime, where you will be the Tactical Coordinator aboard a maritime patrol aircraft, or
  • Air Battle Manager, where you will use radar and other sophisticated equipment to control multiple aircraft in a peace-time or combat environment.

Who Can Become An ACO?

Contrary to popular belief, 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 - 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.

Despite ACOs working with the most cutting edge surveillance, electronic warfare and weapons systems in Australian skies, you don’t need any technical expertise or flying experience to apply to be an ACO – we’ll teach you that!

What you will need is confidence, a sense of competitiveness, and commitment to a long journey of training and study, and a dogged determination to succeed. A sense of humour will also help you get through the intense training and critique that is involved along the way.

Selection Process and Training

Defence Force Recruiting is responsible for conducting the primary selection activities which includes a series of standard aptitude, medical and psychological testing.

Those applicants who successfully complete the primary selection activities are invited to undergo further assessment at the Aviation Candidate Management Centre at RAAF Base East Sale.

All ACO candidates are required to under Officer Training prior to commencing ACO Initial Employment Training (IET).  Depending on the type of entry, ACO candidates will undergo training at either the RAAF Officer Training School or Australian Defence Force Academy.

Following Officer Training, ACO candidates undergo IET at Number One Flying Training School (1FTS) at RAAF Base East Sale. Candidates undertake core systems training prior to selection to undergo specialist training in one of the three ACO streams. The stream type will depend on Air Force requirements and the individual ACO’s abilities, performance and personal preference.