OASC – Selection Central
The mission of the Officer & Aircrew Selection Centre (OASC) is “To be the UK centre of excellence for the selection of the best potential officers, non-commissioned aircrew and controllers for RAF service”.
Prior to the pandemic, the RAF could expect around 8000 applications a year, of which around 3000 would enter Aptitude Testing for specialisations which require it (essentially anything to do with flying or controlling). The annual intake was about 600 officers, including 90 pilots – of which around 30% would already be serving – and 100 NCO aircrew.
Specific factors, including those related to the pandemic, have generated some temporary reductions, but the RAF hopes that intake numbers should return to historic norms in the near future. There has also been a reduction in the maximum ages for commencing aircrew training, in the case of pilots from below 27 to below 24, to allow a full career path in view of ensuring they have the reach in years to achieve the highest ranks, following several years of flying training, development as a front-line aviator and then ascension through the ranks, via various command and staff roles.
OASC in 2022, although adhering to a similar general format to the one which I underwent at RAF Biggin Hill and Cranwell in 1963, has changed in many ways. Gone is the 1* Commandant, supported by a couple of Group Captains and a bevy of Wing Commanders and Squadron Leaders; today’s organization is run by a Wing Commander, supported by Squadron Leaders and Flight Lieutenants, using assessment techniques designed by dedicated occupational psychologists.
Applicants will probably have been attracted by marketing through various media, and will complete an online application. An online check of eligibility will be conducted by the RAF Virtual Armed Forces Career Office, and a physical check, combined with a presentation and the opportunity for questions, at a local Armed Forces Career Office.
Applicants are then invited to undergo Computer-Based Aptitude Testing, if required for the desired branch, which results in an assessment of suitability for various roles. The RAF’s aptitude testing is constantly evolving, is used by the Army and the RN, and has been adopted by other forces worldwide. It has been shown to significantly reduce failure rate in training, thereby increasing cost-effectiveness – flying training is an expensive business.
There is a different battery of tests for each branch: Pilot; RPAS pilot; Weapons Systems Officer (WSO); Air Ops Control, Intel; and Weapons System Operator (WSOp). About 25% qualify for pilot, and around 50% pass something. The tests take a working day, are valid for three years, and can be retaken after 12 months; the maximum improvement noted is about 10%.
Based on these results, candidates then undertake a filter interview, currently a combination of face-to-face and virtual, followed by a general medical examination and a fitness test, which can be administered to RAF standards by GPs and fitness centres contracted to the MoD.
The interview comprises: personal qualities and activities; motivation towards the RAF; military and current affairs awareness; and a mandatory warfare question, requiring a ‘yes’ or ‘no’ response.
Those who meet the criteria are then invited to OASC to undertake a face-to-face interview and exercise phase, followed by a specialist medical. The interview further explores personal qualities, attitudes, motivation and awareness. The exercise phase includes a discussion period, a planning exercise, and tasks which are performed in both leaderless and command situations. These are designed to test confidence and resilience, oral communications, influence on others, problem-solving, and teamwork. The specialist medical comprises an anthropometric assessment, audiometry, optometry, blood test and ECG, a physical examination and a medical board interview. Finally, a decision will be made and, if appropriate, an offer of service will be extended.