Observer or WSO

Discussion in 'The Fleet Air Arm' started by Mothball, Feb 18, 2006.

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  1. I am very interested in joing either the RAF or RN, in the field of helicopter navigation, but what is the better route, being an observer in the FAA or a WSO in the RAF. If possbile No bias!
  2. the_matelot

    the_matelot War Hero Moderator

    Join the RN..........
  3. The Crabs don't train Navs for helicopters any more. Being a bus service they just let the Pilot in the left hand seat read the map.
    Observers are responsible for a whole range of issues other than just the aircrafts navigation, locating and identifying targets of interest for starters.
  4. Why dont you go to your careers office and get yourself to RNAS Culdrose and visit the Squadrons to find out what an Observer does. The careers office are supposed to organise this sort of thing.
  5. Plus you can train as a fighter controller on AEW sea kings, which is another dimension
  6. They are not AEW anymore - ASaC (sorry, I know I am being Mr picky picky!)
  7. The crabs will probably fcuk you off at the high port if you request to join them for anything other than single seat fast jet.

    It's 'cos they're tossers.

    You'd have to go and buy some white socks and shiny polyester suits as well so you could fit into their mess...
  8. Depends what you want out of life. The RAF future is Eurofighter and JCA, neither of which has a second seat. So unless you fancy Nimrods, or Transport aircraft, you will not get to fly fast anything. The FAA can offer a variety of rotary wing, but again, no fast movers.

    If you want to fly, and you don't care what, then the question you have to answer becomes "how much time do I want to spend away from home?". If the answer is not very much, join the RAF. Otherwise, join the best, like what I did :)
  9. As an Obs you are much more involved in the aircraft systems and the mission - regardless of type (ASaC Merlin Lynx) if it shakes your boat plenty of LHS time as well. My experience of AF NAVs (WSO) is that they are referred to as “positional consultants†by pilots.
    Always Fly Navy (Unless it has four engines and is taking you home from Basra) :lol:
  11. and ASaC means.... ?
  12. Airborne Surveillance and Area Control.
  13. Actually is Airborne Surveillance and Control ie the little "a" is "and"
  14. Mothball,
    Perhaps I could offer a Crab aircrew perspective...

    Both Obs and WSO offer excellent career prospects and each have pros and cons.

    RN Obs training is probably more demanding than that for RAF WSO with a steeper learning curve throughout flying trg. Once qualified, as an Observer you'll be guaranteed a rotary slot with the ASAaC and small-ship (Lynx) roles seemingly being viewed as the most challenging and varied in comparison to ASW. That said, Merlin is seeing a rapid expansion of its role away from pure ASW/ASuW to that a more rounded Intelligence, Surveillance, Target Acquisition and Recce (ISTAR) capability with new sensors (in a similar evolution to that which the RAF Nimrod MR2 fleet is currently undergoing). I suspect that within 10 years, the FAA Obs will also be operating UAVs from afloat.

    On the down side, the variety of postings is less in the RN and sea tours will soon lose their appeal when you pick up wife and kids a few years down the line. Some naval aviators I know also express frustration at the career primacy of 'ship-drivers' and warfare types in comparison to themselves. However, I'll let the FAA posters here comment further from first hand knowledge.

    In contrast, RAF WSO trg has more varied posting opportunities although as RGP suggests, there are now very few WSO rotary slots indeed. On qualification therefore, you will be either posted to fast jet (FJ) or multi-engine (ME). The FJ route will from about 2009 consist only Tornado GR4 although there is the possibility that some Typhoon twin stickers will be used operationally in a mission command/EW role with a WSO in the boot. Most RAF WSOs will therefore go ME and this will predominantly mean ISTAR. Primary first tour types will be the Nimrod MR2/MRA4 (conducting ISTAR, ASW/ASuW, and with a very useful stand-off strike capability), Sentinel R1 (Airborne Stand-Off Radar (ASTOR), a mini-JSTARS ground surveillance, recce and C2 asset) and AWACS (airborne C2 and battle management). With the advent of A330K, C-130J, A400M and C-17, there will be few if any WSO jobs in the AT or AAR role. Later tours could be on the Nimrod R1 SIGINT asset or as a UAV pilot/sensor operator (some WSOs are already filling such jobs). Quality/stability of life is arguably better and there is a more accepted aircrew career structure.

    One final consideration, if you apply to the RAF and don't quite make the grade for WSO at OASC, you may well be offered NCO WSOp. This has some excellent jobs on similar types to the WSO but in addition you may also go rotary on SAR or SH helos. For those with the requisite aptitude and determination, there is a good record of WSOps being commissioned as WSOs later in their career. The RN too have NCO aircrewmen on ASW helos and Commando 'junglies', but I'm not sure how these are recruited or selected. Again, perhaps one of the FAA chaps here could advise.

    Hope that this is useful. Whichever service you choose, I wish you the best of's a great life!!

  15. Based purely on avoiding that blue uniform, fly WAFU!
  16. The RAF and Junglie pilots might take exception to being refered to as a bus service. The LHS job is as busy as any Observer, there's much more to flying in a high treat operational environment than just ready a map, but then most Observers wouldn't know about high operational threats at the moment!
  17. As much as it hurts me to say your statement is very true ! Although to be fair most Obs I know would like to contribute more, but are held back by a "backward" facing Fleet Aviation organisation.

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