Commissioned service

Terms of commissions

If you join the RAF as a commissioned officer, you have 2 options available to you;
    a Short Service Commission (SSC) or a Permanent Commission (PC).  

Short Service Commissions are available for various lengths of service, usually from 3-12 years, but the minimum period for an aircrew officer is 12 years.  Different branches and specialisations offer different SSCs depending on the manning requirement at that time.  

A SSC does not earn an immediate pension or lump sum at the end of the engagement but any service is reckonable towards a pension at age 65.

When serving on a SSC, personnel can apply at any stage to be considered for a PC, but success will depend on the manning requirements of the particular branch at the time.  Each year, a proportion of officers serving on SSCs are transferred to PC terms, but there can be no guarantee of acceptance and, if the applicant is unsuccessful, he/she will have to leave the RAF.

Permanent commissions

Personnel joining the RAF on a permanent commission are employed until what is called an initial retirement date.  This is either their 38/16 or 40/18 point (defined as reaching your 38th/40th birthday or completion of 16/18 years reckonable service, whichever is the later).  Whether you serve to a 38/16 or 40/18 point depends upon which Armed Forces Pension Scheme you joined up on or transferred to (the key cut-over date was 6 Apr 05, so check which Scheme applies).   

Officers commissioned under the Internal Commissioning Scheme (which came into effect on 1 Apr 02) will be required to complete 16/18 years commissioned service unless they are commissioned to age 55 as part of their transfer to the commissioned cadre.

Other officers with previous service will be required to serve the balance of a 16/18-year commission, subject to a minimum period of 8 years.  This minimum period is to enable those commissioned from the ranks to have sufficient time to become competitive for promotion.

Officers commissioned under the Commissioned Warrant Officer Scheme, all FS, and WOs/MACR and all others commissioned over the age of 37 (39 for those prior to 6 Apr 05) are appointed an initial PC to the normal retirement date at age 55.

Rank, seniority & promotion

Rank and seniority on appointment and speed of promotion to the rank of flt lt depend primarily on branch and mode of entry.  Additional seniority (called “antedates of seniority”) can be awarded to certain entrants with specific skills or experience, including those entering via the Internal Commissioning Scheme, where previous non-commissioned service is taken into account.  Some specialist branches have time promotion to flt lt.

The basic time promotion period for officers to attain the rank of flt lt is 5½ years in the Fg Branch and 6½ years in the other branches.

Substantive promotion of officers is conferred by the RAF manning organisation on the basis of selection on merit via an annual Promotion Selection Board or by length of qualifying service (ie, time promotion).

From 1 Apr 08, all officers are required to successfully complete the Junior Officer Development Programme or the Junior Officer Command Course (as applicable) before being considered for promotion to the rank of sqn ldr.

From Jan 09, all sqn ldrs will be required to successfully complete the 8-week Intermediate Command & Staff Course (Air) before being considered fro promotion to wg cdr.

Officers promoted to the substantive (ie, not acting) rank of sqn ldr are automatically conditioned to serve to the Normal Retirement Date at age 55.  To be substantively promoted, an officer must have an expectation of completing a minimum period in the new rank – the specified period for promotions up to air cdre is 3 years.

If an officer is not selected for promotion to sqn ldr by the Initial Retirement Date (38/16 or 40/18), they are usually required to leave the Service.  However, some may be considered for further service (known as assimilation) to age 55, dependent upon the manning needs of their branch.  If assimilated, they remain eligible for subsequent promotion to sqn ldr and above.

Exits from commissioned service

Officers leaving the RAF will exit either by normal release, premature compulsory release or early termination (more commonly referred to as PVR.)

Normal release is when an officer leaves the RAF at a prescribed compulsory retirement or exit point for their branch and commission type, exercises an available option point, or retires at the prescribed maximum age for their branch or specialisation.

Premature compulsory release is the early termination of an officer’s service on either medical grounds or non-medical grounds, other than at a prescribed compulsory exit point or retirement date.  This clause covers those occasions when officers are called upon to resign or retire.

Early termination (PVR) is an officer’s early release from the Service at their own request other than at a prescribed option point or exit date.  Every PVR application will be considered by the RAF manning organisation on its individual merits and some personnel will be required to wait for an exit date.  The maximum waiting time is normally not longer than 12 months from application, but the RAF reserves the right to retain PVR applicants beyond this time in exceptional circumstances.

Other modes of exit for officers from the RAF include:  Training failure; transfer to the Reserve; relinquishment; retirement; resignation; removal; invaliding and administrative exit.  Should any of these apply to an officer, it is recommended that specialist advice is sought from unit personnel staffs.

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