Air combat officer


Also known as:

  • Army officer

What they do

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.

Specialisations include: Air defence officer (air force), Air force - general entrant, Air force technician/tradesperson, Armoured corps officer (army), Artillery officer (army), General service officer (army), Ground defence officer (air force), Infantry officer (army), Military police officer (air force) (NZ), Military police officer (army), Military police officer (navy) (NZ), Observer (navy), Security police officer (air force), Special service officer (army)

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.

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.

How do I become one?

Education and training

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.

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