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The Air Cadet Organisation




The Air Cadet Organization (ACO) is a national youth organization sponsored by the Royal Air Force in the UK. Membership is open to young people aged between 13 and 22 years, inclusive.

The ACO is made up of two areas:

  • Air Training Corps - The ATC is the RAF's cadet force, divided into six regions, 36 wings and more than 900 squadrons within communities around the UK.
  • Combined Cadet Force (RAF) - The CCF (RAF) is our section of the CCF which is made up of cadets from all three services, coming together in approximately 200 independent and state schools across the country.

The ATC and CCF(RAF) share many similarities but there are a number of differences in structure, training programmes, recruitment etc. Basically the Air Training Corps is open to anyone whereas the CCF (RAF) is only usually open to the members of the school with whcih the section is associated.

The Aims of the Air Cadet Organization are:

To promote and encourage among young people a practical interest in aviation and the Royal Air Force.

To provide training which will be useful in the Services and civilian life.

To foster the spirit of adventure and develop qualities of leadership and good citizenship.

 The "Air Cadets" provides the opportunity for members to take part in a huge and diverse range of exciting and challenging activities. Many are organized at National and Regional level, many others take place locally at Wing and Squadron levels.

If your interest is in Flying, Sports, Adventure Training, Camping, Engineering, Shooting, Drill, Music, Watersports, Abseiling, Overseas Travel… (the list is a VERY long one!) you will find out about these and much more by looking around this site - they are all activities provided by the ATC and CCF(RAF).

Many of the competitive elements could see you competing at International level. There is also a very important social aspect too - you will get to meet and make a lot of new friends.

The ACO develops personal qualities and a sense of community and citizenship valued by employers, both military and civil.

As a Cadet you will discover this is great FUN!!

A very large percentage of serving members of the Royal Air Force were air cadets. Although the ACO is not a recruiting organization, 41% of Officer and 51% of all Aircrew recruits including Pilots, WSOs (Navigators) and WSOps (Air Electronics Operators, Air Engineers, Air Loadmasters and Signallers)  into the Royal Air Force are ex-air cadets. If you are looking for a Service career, membership will help give you a head start. Research has shown that ex-cadets do better in basic training and stay in the Service longer than their colleagues without the benefit of cadet membership.

The greater success rates and contribution towards recruitment, along with the personnel support role (eg at airshows etc) save the Royal Air Force an estimated £11.1m per year. Likewise, if you chose a civilian career our research proves you can go on the great things…employers just love the skills and experience that air cadets offer.

 Who we are

Are you up for fun, adventure, incredible experiences and making new friends? Are you looking for something to give you the edge in life? Then welcome to the Air Cadet Organisation (ACO). Better known as the 'Air Cadets', we’re a UK-wide cadet force with more than 40,000 members aged between 13 and 20 years.

We're sponsored by the Royal Air Force and can give you hands-on experience of activities and courses that will challenge and develop your skills to help you succeed in whatever you want to do.

And there's one more important thing - it's a lot of fun!

Ready for a challenge?

As a cadet you'll have the opportunity to do things that others only dream about. Want real flight experience? No problem. How about heading out on adventurous training and camps, sometimes overseas? Normal for cadets. Competitive sports, drill, shooting, music, abseiling, engineering projects? Our list of activities is long, varied and open to all cadets. Yes it's a challenge, but that's what life's all about.

Get a head start

Let's face it - where else would you be given the opportunity to fly solo in a glider or powered aircraft when you're 17? Whatever you do with your life, at the end of your time as a cadet you'll be self-motivated, confident and ready for anything.

What we do

This is what it's all about - activities that offer challenge, excitement and adventure and the knowledge you pick up along the way through structured lectures and first-hand experience.

Don't worry about being thrown in at the deep end. You’ll join your local squadron as a trial, when you get to know the other cadets and start basic training. You then get gradually introduced to activities as you progress, so you can make the most of every opportunity that comes your way.

Get out and get active

Cadet life is about learning through practical experience, especially in the great outdoors! Here's a taster of what's in store:

  • Camping - Work on your survival skills and learn your strengths in a team.
  • Easter/summer camps - As you advance in rank you can take part in these popular camps held at RAF stations around the UK.
  • Overseas camps - Spend 10 days in Cyprus with fantastic weather, swimming, sailing, and maybe even see the Red Arrows practise their displays (they train there). Head to Germany where you'll visit a city or cemetery from the First and Second World Wars. You may even get to fly in helicopters - another exciting possibility for cadets.
  • Adventurous training - A huge part of cadet training. We have two centres, at Windermere in the Lake District and Llanbedr in coastal Wales, both with stunning scenery. Rock climbing, abseiling, high-level hill walking, mountain-biking, canoeing, high rope work and sailing are all par for the course.

Get airborne

Flying is central to our purpose and your cadet experience. You'll have loads of opportunities to take to the skies:

  • Gliding - Soar to success! There are fantastic opportunities to glide while you are a cadet, with the ultimate goal being a solo flight. Training is in three stages: a Gliding Induction Course (GIC), Gliding Scholarship (GS) and Advanced Gliding Training (AGT).
  • Air Experience Flights - Feel the thrill of powered flight, with a fully qualified pilot to guide you through taking control of the aircraft yourself. Not only have the opportunity to learn about the flying controls but you’ll experience aerobatics and low level flying too.
  • Air Cadet Pilot Scheme - The pinnacle of flying as a cadet, for advanced handling. Complete this successfully and you'll be awarded your cadet pilot wings. And if you do exceptionally well you could be recommended for further training which will help towards your Private Pilot's Licence!
  • Air Cadet Pilot Navigation Training Scheme - A great opportunity to use your navigation skills, this two-week course where you fly for up to eight hours is open to selected cadets. Success will lead to you gaining your 'wings'.

Think you can lead?

You may have more talent for it than you think. Leadership qualities are in all of us and the physically demanding 7-day summer cadet leadership course will help bring them out. Make it through and you’ll be a more confident and responsible cadet having learnt the full benefits of working in and leading a team.

Then, for an extra challenge, you could find yourself at the Cadet Training Centre at Frimley Park in Surrey. All cadet forces throughout the UK (and some from overseas) attend courses there. Really flex your skills and you could come out with a trophy for your achievements.

Training syllabus

A key part of the cadet experience is your progress through the training syllabus. Set out in stages for you to work through, it enables you to open up more possibilities for activities, specialist technical training and rank promotion. It's slightly different between the ATC and CCF (RAF) but all cadets take part in lectures and hands-on projects. You also get outdoors and 'actually do it' as much as possible.

We expect a lot from you - it's a serious commitment to be a cadet - but once you've experienced it yourself we know you wouldn't have it any other way.