Cadet Ranks

Every cadet will work his/her way through the various stages of classification training and, hopefully, all cadets will eventually reach the level of Master Air Cadet. It is not the same, however, with the Cadet rank structure. Promotion to a Cadet Non Commissioned Officer (Cdt NCO) role is only awarded as a result of selection by the Squadron Commander, and the number of cadets that can be promoted is limited. For example a typical Squadron of 30-40 Cadets has established posts for just 10 NCOs. It is therefore considered a great honour to be selected for promotion, and competition can be intense.

In general every Cadet Warrant Officer (CWO) and Non-Commissioned Officer (NCO) in the Corps is expected to:

  • Bear an appropriate share of responsibility for the morale, discipline and control of all cadets junior to him and her.
  • Show pride in the Corps and take an active interest in its good name and efficiency.
  • Be smart in appearance and set a high standard of personal behaviour.
Cadet Corporal

Rank: Cadet Corporal
Abbreviation: Cdt Cpl
Addressed as: Corporal

The first rank a cadet may achieve is Cadet Corporal, Cadet Corporals are known as Junior NCOs (JNCOs). Suitable candidates are selected by the Squadron Commander, who may set additional requirements. As a minimum a Cadet Corporal should be able to:

  • Recognise the need for discipline and be able to apply it with fairness and common sense.
  • Communicate clearly, orally and in writing.
  • Plan and organise a given task.
  • Command a drill squad.

Typically a Cadet Cpl will:

  • Have passed the Leading Cadet examination
  • Have an excellent attendance record
  • Have attended a camp or residential course
Cadet Sergeant

Rank: Cadet Sergeant
Abbreviation: Cdt Sgt
Addressed as: Sergeant

Cadets who excel in the role of Cadet Corporal may be selected for further promotion to Cadet Sergeant, this is the first Senior NCO (SNCO) rank. Suitable candidates are selected by the Squadron Commander who may set additional requirements. In addition to the requirements for Cadet Corporal, a Cadet Sergeant should be able to:

  • Accept a greater amount of responsibility, show initiative and inspire confidence.
  • Display a sound understanding of the role and organisation of the Corps.
  • Take an active part in the organisation of squadron activities.

Typically a Cadet Sergeant will:

  • Have passed the Senior Cadet examination
  • Have an excellent attendance record
  • Have attended a Leadership Course
Cadet Flight Sergeant

Rank: Cadet Flight Sergeant
Abbreviation: Cdt FS
Addressed as: Flight Sergeant

A Cadet Flight Sergeant should possess all of the same qualities as a Cadet Sergeant but to a greater depth. He or she should display a level of maturity above that of other cadets of the same age. Suitable candidates are initially selected by the Squadron Commander, they are then interviewed by a Wing Staff Officer. If the WSO feels that the candidate is suitable, they will be promoted to the rank of Cadet Flight Sergeant.

Typically a Cadet Flight Sergeant will:

  • Have passed the Master Air Cadet examination
  • Have an excellent attendance record
  • Have experienced a wide variety of Corps activities
Cadet Warrant Officer

Rank: Cadet Warrant Officer
Abbreviation: CWO
Addressed as: Cadet Warrant Officer

The highest rank a cadet can achieve is Cadet Warrant Officer. A CWO is a junior manager and should possess outstanding ability and personal qualities. A CWO should have a wide experience of ATC activities, and have a thorough knowledge of the organisation of the Corps. Service as a CWO gives excellent experience for possible subsequent adult uniformed service.

To be eligible for promotion to CWO a Cadet must be aged 18+ and have attained the Master Air Cadet Classification. Suitable candidates are selected by the Squadron Commander, they must then pass a selection board interview at Wing Headquarters. The selection board president is usually OC Wing, he is joined by two other members who can be either Wing Staff Officers or experienced Squadron Commanders.

Staff Cadet

Cadets who reach the age of 18 are legally adults and as such have a duty of care over younger cadets. They are expected to intervene as an adult, regardless of rank, should the situation warrant it. They are also required to undergo a disclosure check through the Protection of Vulnerable Groups (PVG) scheme. To aid them in the transition from child to adult they complete the ACO Basic Adult Staff Induction Course (BASIC) which outlines their role and legal responsibilities.

All cadets aged 18+ wear rank slides embroidered with the title ‘STAFF CADET’ in addition to their rank, this makes their adult status immediately visible to both cadets and staff.

Warrant Officers and Senior Non Commissioned Officers

Warrant Officers and Senior Non Commissioned Officers of the Air Training Corps are uniformed members of staff. Their main responsibility on the Squadron is to maintain standards in the three D’s – Drill, Dress and Discipline. They will also act as mentor to the Cadet NCO’s on the Squadron, providing training and guidance in leadership and management. They wear standard RAF uniform with embroidered RAF Air Cadets identifier on their rank slides.

Sergeant RAFAC

Rank: Sergeant
Abbreviation: Sgt
Addressed as: Sergeant

Candidates for SNCO (ATC) positions will usually serve a period of 3 months as a Civilian Instructor before attending a selection board at Wing HQ, if successful they are appointed in the rank of Acting Sergeant. To confirm their appointment they must attend the week long Senior Non-Commissioned Officer Staff Initial Course (SSIC) at the Adult Training Facility, RAF Cranwell within 12 months and achieve satisfactory reports from their OC.

Flight Sergeant RAFAC

Rank: Flight Sergeant
Abbreviation: FS
Addressed as: Flight Sergeant

After a completing a period of four years in the role of Sergeant, SNCO’s become eligible for promotion to Flight Sergeant. Candidates with previous military service as a NCO may enter at this rank at the discretion of the Regional Commandant.

Warrant Officer RAFAC

Rank: Warrant Officer
Abbreviation: WO
Addressed as: Sir / Ma’am

After completing a further four years as a Flight Sergeant a SNCO becomes eligible for promotion to Warrant Officer (ATC). To be appointed to this rank they are expected to have first completed the SNCO Staff Drill Instructors’ Course (SSDIC) at RAF Cranwell, and to have gained additional qualifications in one or more Corps activities (i.e. Shooting/Adventure Training). They will then be interviewed by the Wing Commander and Wing Warrant Officer who will decide if they are suitable for appointment.

If a candidate has previously served in HM Forces as a Warrant Officer (WO1) then they are permitted to enter at this rank, and are granted permission to wear the Royal Coat of Arms rank slide (shown on the right).

Commissioned Officers

The Air Cadet Organisation is managed on a local level by officers who hold a Queens Cadet Forces Commission in the Royal Air Force. These officers are all volunteers who give up their spare time to help organise and run cadet activities. They wear the same uniform as regular RAF officers with embroidered RAF Air Cadets identifier on their rank slides.

A candidate for Commissioning must first serve as a Civilian Instructor, SNCO or Cadet Warrant Officer for a period of no less than 3 months. They must then pass a filter interview at Wing Headquarters, followed by a two day commission board at the Officer and Aircrew Selection Centre (OASC) RAFC Cranwell. The commission board consists of a series tests of leadership and organisational ability, a fitness test and a formal interview with senior officers.

Candidates successfully passing the commission board are duly appointed as Acting Pilot Officer in the RAFAC.

Acting Pilot Officer RAFAC

Rank: Acting Pilot Officer
Abbreviation: A/Plt Off
Addressed as: Sir / Ma’am

Candidates successfully passing the commission board process are initially appointed as an Acting Pilot Officer. They return to their Squadron and gain experience in an executive role, they will remain as Acting Pilot Officer until they successfully complete the 1 week Officers Initial Course (OIC) at the Adult Training Facility (ATF), Headquarters Air Cadets.

Pilot Officer RAFAC

Rank: Pilot Officer
Abbreviation: Plt Off
Addressed as: Sir / Ma’am

On completion of OIC an Officer will be formally gazetted as a Pilot Officer in the RAFAC. They will remain Pilot Officers for a minimum period of two years, if their performance has been satisfactory they are then promoted to Flying Officer.

Flying Officer RAFAC

Rank: Flying Officer
Abbreviation: Fg Off
Addressed as: Sir / Ma’am

Flying Officers will typically act as Deputy Officer Commanding/Adjutant/Flight Commander on an ATC Squadron. On small Squadrons or Detached Flights they may act as Officer Commanding.

Flight Lieutenant RAFAC

Rank: Flight Lieutenant
Abbreviation: Flt Lt
Addressed as: Sir / Ma’am

Flight Lieutenants typically act as Squadron Commanders in the ATC, they may also be found at Wing/Region Headquarters filling various Staff Officer roles. Confirmation of promotion to Flight Lieutenant is usually dependant on the Officer attending the Squadron Commanders Course (SCC) at ATF and fulfilling a Continuous Professional Development programme.

Squadron Leader RAFAC

Rank: Squadron Leader
Abbreviation: Sqn Ldr
Addressed as: Sir / Ma’am

Squadron Leader is the first senior officer rank and is usually held by Wing/Region Staff Officers, although large Squadrons with 100+ cadets on strength may have a Squadron Leader as Officer Commanding.

Wing Commander RAFAC

Rank: Wing Commander
Abbreviation: Wg Cdr
Addressed as: Sir / Ma’am

Wing Commander is the highest rank normally attainable within the RAFAC, it is usually held by the Officer Commanding an ATC Wing.