ATC Officer / Fighter Controller

Discussion in 'Joining Up - Royal Navy Recruiting' started by MikeyBikey, Jul 15, 2012.

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  1. Hey hey,

    As part of my SIFT research/revision I've been looking into my training pipeline as a Warfare Officer and possible specialisations. One that interests me is the Fighter Controller specialisation, the description of which implies an air traffic control role. I thought it was fairly clear until I stumbled upon the Air Traffic Control Officer job description. The reason I'd missed it is because it's part of the Fleet Air Arm branch and the majority of my research had been done in relation to the Warfare branch.

    Other than being part of a different branch, the main difference between a Fighter Controller and an Air Traffic Control Officer seems to be the length and depth of training. An ATC Officer receives a greater amount of training and seems to focus on operations on and around a Naval Air Base, so would I be right in thinking that a Fighter Controller is involved on a much smaller scale? Would the FC be based more often on Frigates or Destroyers, where they're still necessary but where the level of activity is much lower?

    Any ATC or FCs out there who can shed a little light?

  2. Hi mate,

    I have recently passed my AIB for X(GS) and expressed an interest at my AIB for specialising as a fighter controller. I take it you have read through this: Royal Navy School of Fighter Control | Royal Navy

    For SIFT he was more concerned about the wider Navy (i.e where it is) and the X training pipeline rather than specialisation. At my AIB interview they went into a bit more detail about the job I wanted to specialise as (fighter controller) but nothing major, just what ships will you be based on (QE Carriers and Type 45 Destroyers) and what other duties you have as a Warfare Officer such as Officer of the Watch, Officer of the Day, Divisional Officer, Part of Ship Officer etc. He did ask me what radar and equipment I might be using as a FC but I had no idea what the combat computer system they use on board is! If you don't know don't panic. Know the training pipeline back to front, including length and place of certain courses and what the terms at BRNC consist of.

    But amongst this rambling what I'm trying to say is focus on the X training pipeline for SIFT and AIB. They will be interested to see if you have thought beyond initial training (I was asked where I wanted to be in 12 years time) but your initial training and OOW training is very important. It can take up to 2 years from joining BRNC to qualify as an OOW which will be your first job as a Warfare Officer.

    I hope this doesn't sound condescending but Warfare General Service is abbreviated to X(GS) so if you search on the forum for X(GS) you will come back with a lot on the training pipeline, if you want the one I used for my AIB just shout and I will dig out my notes.

    ATC no idea. Sorry!

    Hope this helps.
    Last edited by a moderator: Jul 15, 2012
  3. Cheers Circus, useful info. I have read the RNSFC page - it was quite clear after reading it that FCs dealt with aircraft control, which was where my question about the differences between FC and ATC stemmed from. At first I thought it might have been a duplication of the same job, but they appear to be distinctly different.

    I have the new training pipeline saved to favourites - it has changed since last year so I've brushed up.
  4. No worries! Sorry, I wasn't aware you had already done AIB. I hope my post didn't come across as to condescending/patronizing! Do you know when you will be resitting? Did you have to get the ACLO to re-book everything like PJFT, SIFT etc or did they contact you automatically? What have you been doing to strengthen your application? I have just graduated and I'm a bit unsure of what to do next!

    Thanks mate.
  5. MB, you would be correct in stating as an ATC officer you would be more involved on a daily basis on your duties. As a FC, you would only be involved in FC duties whenever embarked and working with fixed wing, not an everyday occurrence. A HC, or Helicopter Controller,(rating), would be employed to control the embarked Helo if any!

    So as you may be discovering, if your aim is ultimately to become a air traffic controller, (civi street), then ATC officer may be your career of choice. (Not many opportunities for FC's at Heathrow!!!!!) Better add - YET! If you want to play infrequently with big fast jets and spend time War-faring it - then FC.
  6. FC is nothing like ATC and is unlikely to be around for much longer.

    Do yourself a favour and avoid the FC route like the plague.
    • Like Like x 1
  7. I agree with MLP in thinking the FC specialisation will disappear. Clearly their role is required for aircraft without radar to effect an intercept on a target aircraft but, with the demise of the Crab Harriers, I don't really see that being relevant for future fixed wing machines. The datalink systems nowadays can convey so much more information than a FC working in tandem with a radar-equipped aircraft and can give really impressive God's-eye and vertical displays, giving the fighter pilot all the info he can eat, without having to have the inconvenience of radio etc, with their inherent susceptibility to jamming (even with 'secure' units).

    In response to the OP, the main difference between a FC and an ATC officer is the former spends his life trying to get aircraft close together, whereas the latter's job is to keep them apart. When working from an airfield the aircraft will be working with ATC from start up, taxy, take-off, climb out and transit to the 'play' area. Once there they'll be transferred to the FC who will vector them to get the good guys into a position where they can take over the intercept themselves and shoot down the baddies. Of course, he'll also be keeping an eye on the 'big picture' and keeping his boys informed on what could be happening with more baddies coming to the fight. Once the play time has finished the fighter controller will arrange handing the 'chicks' back to ATC for recovery. ATC will then arrange for getting back to the airfield and then possibly 'talking' them down if the weather is crap. After that it is off to tower and ground (again ATC) for getting back to the start point.

    Things will undoubtedly be hugely different with the F35 but with the SHAR, if the weather was poor and we needed to get back to the ship (note, not an airfield), then the FCs would carry out the CCAs (carrier controlled approaches) and not ATC, who spent most of their time on a ship working with the civil controllers of the local airspace (when closer to land).

    It was the case that each SHAR squadron had their own 'D', who was normally one of the better FCs and was seconded to a squadron for a couple of years before he returned to the fleet. They worked hand-in-hand with 'their' squadron but would also be very much part of the Ship's Company when embarked and spent most of their time doing Fishead-type things, including OOW etc, whereas pilots didn't get involved in that nasty sort of stuff.

    The FCs would get plenty of 'ticks in the box' as Air Warfare Officers and this didn't adversely affect their promotion prospects, unlike other sub-specialisations at the time. Not really as relevant nowadays because of the difference in career paths to 'my day'.

    So what of after Service career prospects? Well there's really no need for FCs in civvy street and there is no equivalent. There is no read-across to ATC and, as far as I know, there is no credit towards the civilian qualifications. ATC are not very generous either but there is at least some credit for your military ATC quals. There is still plenty to do to get the civilian 'tickets' but you do at least have something to show for your RN service, unlike FC.

    Overall, FC is very much military, whereas ATC is both. If your intention is to spend your whole career in the RN and strive for getting to the top, then FC is the better choice. It's a warfare role and will give you the military 'ticks' you need. ATC is definitely less of a military thing and will hamper your attaining lots of gold on your arm. On the other hand, if you're not intending to spend your whole life in the Andrew, then it gives you a better chance on Civvy Street.
  8. Circus - no offence taken! Don't worry about it. I'm attending a SIFT interview tomorrow (Tuesday 17th) and hopefully re-attending AIB a month or two afterwards. I'm told Warfare intake at BRNC picks up again from November to 11-13 per intake, having been about 5 cadets per entry for the last year or so, so hopefully I'll be selected by Easter 2013. I spoke the admin woman at the Office and she said all my tests are in date, so it's just the SIFT and AIB that I have to resit. She said that ordinarily eventually I would have been notified by post, but I was on the phone to her just after my last eligible selection board because I couldn't wait. I didn't see any sense in waiting and wasting time so I asked her to restart my application.

    As far as my application goes, I did well in the planning exercise, fitness test and the interview, but the two main areas I was weakest on are service knowledge and good leadership examples. For service knowledge I wasn't prepared for the type of detail they were asking at AIB, things like the type of engine to go in a certain helo, so that's something I'll work on for the AIB resit. My background has some leadership elements but I was told by my ACLO that it would be seen as more management-based, so I strengthened it in two parts. First, I got myself promoted at work. Nothing special - mid-way to management in the retail sector - but that helps anyway as my leadership skills are exercised a good deal more than in my previous role. Secondly and more importantly, I organised and successfully executed a hike up Scafell Pike for the Everyman male cancer charity, taking a group of 10 with me, with a view to organising another trip at the end of September, perhaps up Helvellyn. I think this will bolster my case quite well as it's the sort of stuff they're looking for.

    Waspie & MLP - useful, thank you! That explains it more clearly. I did see the helicopter controller page and as it involved ratings I thought perhaps it might be subordinate to the FC somehow, but that's clearer now. My aim isn't to become a civvy ATC, I just thought it might be an interesting subspecialisation to get involved in. Between ATC and Warfare, my choice would certainly be Warfare. Perhaps I will just use FC as an example if I'm asked what I might like to specialise in. It's a fair few years down the road anyway, so it's not like I'm committed to it just yet.
  9. Pontius, excellent reply, thank you. Forgive me for not replying further as I need to digest all that and think about it for a bit.
  10. Yeah my AIB was similar. I did well on the Planex, interview, fitness test and service knowledge but didn't do as well on the PLT or psychometric tests. I was pretty disappointed but onwards and upwards! How many in your group passed? On mine only 3/8 of us did, so not many! Sounds like you have done quite a bit in your 12 month gap! My Liaison Officer recommended some similar stuff to me so I will have to get cracking. How did your Sift go? Was it any different from the first time round? I think I will see if I can get on a acquaint course as well; have you done one of these?

    Pontius, thanks for that very informative post! Do you know how many fighter controllers are trained per year? How many would you have on a carrier/ type 45?

  11. G'day Circus,

    I don't know how many FCs are trained per year but I'll bet a fair few ales that it is a lot fewer than when I was around. Maybe a call to the D School at Yeovilton would help; I can't imagine there's anything too sensitive about that info. I'm afraid my only knowledge of a T45 was a cocktail party in Gib but on the CVS there used to be about 6 FCs (including the tame squadron D), who would work normal watches but would often blob up for a big exercise. If the role really interests you then Observer in the AEW choppers might interest you. However, this is clearly a different career path than Warfare Officer and needs to be thought through very carefully.
  12. I don't remember the number but quite a few people passed; I only remember a couple failing. It was a good group, to be honest.

    My SIFT was quite good actually. As I'd passed AIB only last year he (Captain, RM) was fairly confident of my ability to go back and replicate my performance, so we didn't do the whole thing all over again. We instead spent time going over bits that I didn't do so well on at AIB. For instance, I'm a very modest person, to the point of being a touch defensive, so that's something I have to work on to really sell myself. He said that if I improved myself slightly across each of the five core values (effective intellect, leadership potential, communication, courage & values, motivation) then I'd almost certainly be selected. I only need a couple of extra points in each area and I'm there. A massive boost for me was that I did excellently in the planning exercise, so I'm well pleased with that.

    I didn't get the chance to attend any acquaint and leadership courses last year as the dates all clashed (one clashed with my AIB, ironically), but this year I'm down to attend a leadership course in Liverpool on the 31st of this month.

    Pontius - re-reading your post it seems to me that FC might be just an extra skill that can be called upon when necessary. I'm a first-aider at work, but that doesn't mean I'm sat around all day waiting for someone to fall over a pallet - I spend the vast majority of my time doing my primary job. Fighter Controllers appear to be like that, and why not? It makes perfect sense. You're not always going to have your ship's helo on ops, or be involved in F35 operations. It's logical that an officer is able to switch quickly from their "day job" to FC for half an hour and then back. Given your opinion that FCs might be an endangered species, I think I might just stick to using that particular specialisation as an example, to show I've done some work into researching where my career might be in a few years time. When it comes to that particular fork in the road I may well make a different decision.
  13. Just a point, but the FC has nothing to do with the embarked helo or other air assets joining for serials. That is the job of the AC.

    FCs get training hawks occasionally if you're lucky, that is all. You're just another Officer of the watch.
  14. I think MLP has put across the thoughts of AC/ATC community well, although I would offer the counter-argument that although FCs are unlikely to be vectoring jets for much longer, there are still some interesting developments in Airspace Battle Management (BM) for them. Ops in the Gulf and Libya have demonstrated the RN's lack of familiarity with BM, especially considering how it has moved on since we've been operating in Afg.Do I know if the FC branch (as it is at the moment) will still exist if/when you get to a point you can choose it - no. I do know there will be a requirement to be able to control multiple aircraft, missiles, gunnery rounds and land forces in the same area and at the same time - yes. And it will probably be done by Officers from the Warfare Branch.
  15. There are plans afoot for the AC/ATC branch absorbing the FC remit and also taking on battle space management in a branch restructuring in the near future. for a change, this isn't something I made up whilst sat in the VCP on a Red/Red day either.
    • Like Like x 2
  16. Horseshit MLP, you're in the background assuming the position.
  17. sgtpepperband

    sgtpepperband War Hero Moderator Book Reviewer

    Why are you wearing wheels on your feet..?
  18. Just sent you a PM Mikey.

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