Air Surveillance Operator

An outstanding opportunity to make a direct impact on the nation's defence by working on some of the most sophisticated radar equipment in Australia.

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Job Overview

About the Job

Air Force Air Surveillance Operators (ASOPs) use sophisticated electronic equipment to detect, classify and identify aircraft and surface vessels within a specified area of operations. Day to day this is conducted for Australian airspace and its approaches for reasons of illegal incursions to our sovereign territory. On exercise or operations, Air Surveillance Operators establish and maintain an up-to-date and complete picture of air and surface activities using a network of radars and intelligence systems.

Air Surveillance Operators are part of No 41 Wing (41WG) within the Surveillance and Response Group (SRG).

There are two main areas of employment for Air Surveillance Operators.


An Australian designed and built Over the Horizon Radar (OTHR) system allows long range surveillance coverage of Northern Australia and its approaches. Three of these radars form the Jindalee Operational Radar Network (JORN). ASOPs are employed extensively at No 1 Radar Surveillance Unit (1RSU) within the JORN system and are trained to operate radar systems, technologically advanced computers, advanced display systems, extensive communications systems (including satellite data links), and intelligence equipment.


Using an array of microwave radars and a suite of intelligence systems, No 3 Control and Reporting Unit (3CRU), and No 114 Mobile Control and Reporting Unit (114MCRU) prepare the Australian Air Picture which is used for Air Battle Management operations and disseminated to other RAAF, RAN and Australian Army units. These units utilise the Eastern Regional Operations Centre (EASTROC) and the Northern Region Operations Centre (NORTHROC) to achieve this capability. In addition, both units are capable of deploying their ground based radar for domestic radar operations. 114MCRU also provides a comprehensive mobile capability capable of being deployed to remote offshore locations.


Due to the nature and complexity of the ASOP job, shift-work is often required and team work is essential, especially when on deployment. All members should be prepared for temporary duties at any location when placed on specialist training courses, assigned exercise duty, or when required as relief/reinforced manning at another unit.


Here are just a few examples of an ASOP's areas of responsibility, however there are many more. The duties and work schedule of an ASOP are rotated on a regular basis; in fact junior ASOPs may perform a variety of three or four in a single day.

Picture Manager (PICMAN). PICMANs set up and operate tactical computer displays and Intelligence systems, working with other sections to classify and identify aircraft.

Intelligence Operator (INTOP). INTOPs aid the production of the overall air picture by communicating with external agencies and using data entry, manipulation of a Graphical User Interface and recording of information.

Over The Horizon Radar Detection and Tracking Operator (ODTO). ODTOs interpret and analyse information received from an Over the Horizon Radar to detect and track air and surface targets in order to develop an air/sea picture of Australia's approaches. ODTOs also operate supplemental surveillance and intelligence gathering equipment.

Tactical Data Link Operator (TDLOP). Provides a Networking Capability with allied forces via secure data transmission services. Transfers battle space information to assets and commanders in order to allow comprehensive situational awareness of a given Area of Operations.

Selected ASOPs may also be employed as instructors at the Surveillance and Control Training Unit (SACTU).

Other Ranks - Non Technical

Join the ADF with appropriate high school passes

Learn more about Entry Methods

Salary can be over $63,800 p.a. on completion of initial employment training. This salary includes Uniform and Service allowance.


Key Information

Salary & Allowances

Salary while undertaking Military (Recruit) Training: $1,379 per fortnight ($35,854 per year).*

Salary while undertaking Initial Employment Training: $1,576 per fortnight ($40,976 per year).*

While under training, you will also receive $387 per fortnight ($10,086 per year pro rata) Trainee Allowance.

Salary (excluding allowances) on completion of Initial Employment Training: ($1,879) per fortnight ($48,990 per year).*

In addition to your salary, you will also receive Service Allowance of $527 per fortnight ($13,717 per year) except while undertaking Military (Initial) or Employment training. This allowance compensates a member for the unique requirements that service life may impose on an individual and his or her family.

To assist you in maintaining your uniforms in good order and condition, you will also receive a Uniform Allowance of $16 per fortnight ($419 per year).

Each General Entry job in the Australian Defence Force is classified into a pay grade. This particular job is classified as a Pay Grade 2 occupation.

Salary will continue to increase based on rank and the number of years of service completed in that rank.

Pay grade may also increase following the acquisition of additional skills and completion of advanced courses.

Refer to the Salary Scales for further details.

* Please note that these figures do not include compulsory deductions for taxation; meals, accommodation and utilities (as applicable); and superannuation.


ASOPs can expect to spend their first tour of duty at 114MCRU Darwin NT, 3CRU Williamtown NSW, or 1RSU Edinburgh SA.

After your initial tour of duty of between 2-3 years, the number of possible posting areas expands. Currently, there are ASOPs employed in the following locations; Glenbrook NSW, Richmond NSW, Canberra ACT, East Sale VIC, Edinburgh SA, Williamtown NSW, overseas in Malaysia (1) and the USA (4). Apart from the postings available while employed in ASOP duties, there are also the Any Airmen/Airwomen postings that can be applied for in the normal application process.

41 Wing Units

No 1 Radar Surveillance Unit (1RSU)

1RSU operates three radar systems in Alice Springs (NT), Longreach (QLD), and Laverton (WA). Operators are located at RAAF Edinburgh, Adelaide in the JORN Coordination Centre (JCC).

1RSU is able to cover the NE, N and NW approaches to Australia with ease, providing valuable additional coverage to an already impressive Wide Area Surveillance picture, to which 1RSU is just one sensor providing value added data.

On arrival at 1RSU, ASOPs will be expected to complete Over the Horizon Radar (OTHR) Conversion training. Upon successful completion of the OTHR Detection and Tracking Operator course, ASOPs will be allocated to one of the two operational crews for post course consolidation.

The unit operates on a continuous roster cycle so members posted to 1RSU can expect to be permanent shift-workers, unless involved with training courses. Most training is conducted during a standard dayshift (0730-1630 local) however, some shift-work may be required during these courses.

No 3 Control and Reporting Unit (3CRU)

3CRU is located at RAAF Base Williamtown in NSW. Your employment at the unit will include several tasks including PICMAN, INTOP and TDLOP.

The working environment consists of computer consoles that are located in a large air-conditioned operations room. 3CRU has a real time surveillance role dependant upon multiple feeds, including that of intelligence data. The primary area of responsibility is the northern air-sea gap between Australia and our neighbours to the north. The data is maintained by close liaison with external military and civilian agencies.

Like 1RSU, 3CRU operates on a continuous roster cycle so members posted to the unit can expect to be permanent shift-workers, unless involved with training courses. Most of the training is conducted during a standard dayshift (0730-1630 local) however, some shift-work may be required during these courses.

No 114 Mobile Control and Reporting Unit (114MCRU)

114MCRU is located at RAAF Base Darwin in the Northern Territory.

114MCRU tasks include the provision of High Quality Air Defence of a Mobile Sector, and a Tactical Air Operations Centre in support of Joint Operations Command objectives. Equipped with a mobile radar and support cabins, 114MCRU regularly deploy on training exercises such as 'Pitch Black', 'Talisman Sabre', 'Aces North' and 'Tasman Link'. With many exercises involving joint operations with foreign military forces such as the USA, Canada and New Zealand, there is ample opportunity to work closely with and forge friendships with people from all over the world.

Whilst on base, operators enjoy a very comfortable work environment, however the unit often deploys into remote areas.

Surveillance and Control Training Unit (SACTU)

SACTU is located at RAAF Base Williamtown in NSW. It is responsible for conducting both initial and post graduate training for ASOPs. If employed at SACTU you will be employed as either an instructor, training developer or Simulator Pilot.



Applicants must be aged between 17 and 54 years of age inclusive on day of entry.

Applicants will not be allowed to enter the ADF until they achieve a minimum of 17 years of age, however they may be able to initiate the application process from 16 years and six months of age, depending upon the capacity of their local recruiting centre.

Education & Experience

It is essential that the applicant has successfully completed Year 10 (of a 12 year schooling system) with passes in English, Mathematics and Science,


If you do not satisfy the education requirements for this trade or do not possess evidence of your educational attainment there is an alternative pathway available to you.

You may be eligible to sit an Alternative Education Equivalency (AEE) Assessment to ascertain your ability at the required educational level for this trade.

Further information is available here.

Medical & Fitness

To be enlisted or appointed, you must be medically and physically fit for entry to your chosen occupation. This is partially assessed from the completion of an extensive questionnaire covering your medical history, followed by a physical examination.

You will also be required to successfully pass a physical fitness test before appointment.

For further details on medical and physical fitness standards refer to Physical Fitness Standards for Entry into the ADF and Medical Process for Entry into the ADF.

Period of Service

You will be enlisted for an Initial Minimum Period of Service (IMPS) of two years. Subsequent periods of service may be offered subject to the requirements of the ADF and your suitability for further service.

You may request discharge at any time provided you do not have an outstanding Initial Minimum Period of Service obligation and provide a minimum of three months notice.

Additional Requirements

Air Surveillance Operator applicants require a Negative Vetting Level 2 security clearance from commencement of Initial Employment Training until discharge from service. Some roles and positions will require a higher security clearance.

Applicants should hold a provisional or full Australian C Class (or equivalent) motor vehicle licence for a vehicle with a manual transmission for 12 months. Applicants should be free of traffic infringements and/or offences that may result in future cancellation of the licence, or prevent the issue of an ADF Drivers Licence.


The application process to join the Australian Defence Force requires you to complete a series of aptitude tests which may include verbal, spatial and numerical ability and a general maths test. Some jobs may also require you to complete additional testing at a later date.

Psychology support staff will explain what is involved with each test.

The aptitude tests provide information about your suitability for the Defence Force and for particular jobs. Defence Force Recruiting can then help you identify jobs that best match your abilities.

Further information on the aptitude testing requirements can be found here.


Only Australian Citizens are permitted to serve in the ADF.

If you are a permanent resident of Australia, the ADF may consider a temporary waiver of the citizenship requirement if the position for which you are applying cannot be filled by an applicant who meets all the citizenship requirements, and then only in exceptional circumstances. You will be required to obtain Australian Citizenship as early as possible following enlistment or appointment.

Find out more in our Citizenship page or ask your local Defence Force Recruiting Centre.

Security Requirements

The Department of Defence requires ADF entrants to attain a security clearance appropriate to their avenue of entry. Details on the security requirements for all Air Force jobs can be found here.


Military Training

Duration: 10.6 weeks

Location: RAAF Base Wagga (NSW)

You'll start your Air Force career at No 1 Recruit Training Unit (1RTU). In three intensive months you'll transition smoothly from civilian to Service life, acquiring the basic knowledge, skills and physical fitness required for your role; and learning to become an effective and productive member of the Air Force.

You can read about what to expect at the No.1 Recruit Training Unit on the 1RTU website. You'll also find useful information in our Joining instructions.

Employment Training

Air Surveillance Operator Initial Entry Training

Duration: 11 Weeks

Location: Surveillance and Control Training Unit (SACTU) at RAAF Base Williamtown, NSW.

Subjects taught on the course include:

  • Basic Radar Theory
  • The Australian Defence Force Aerospace Battle Management System structure
  • Meteorology
  • Communications
  • Electronic Warfare
  • Waveform Theory and
  • Situational Awareness.

Following completion of the ASOP Initial Entry Training course students can expect to be posted to either 3CRU, 114MCRU or 1RSU.

Further Training

ASOPs are graded as an ASOP1 on Pay Grade 3 and will normally progress to the rank of Leading Aircraftman/Aircraftwoman on Pay Grade 4 after 12 months consolidation and subject to the completion of the required competencies from the ASOP Career Journal (Competency Log).

Progression beyond this point is by promotion to Non Commissioned Officer (NCO) rank and is determined by ability and performance. The Air Force provides courses and instruction in such subjects as supervision, human resource management, law, discipline, service writing, stores procedure and other subjects pertinent to all NCOs throughout the Air Force regardless of trade. Specific trade courses are also provided and include subjects such as advanced system operation and management, reporting procedures using standard formats and other essential skills that will be required by a NCO in the ASOP mustering.

Promotion is by no means automatic and is competitive in nature. However, the ASOP mustering is expanding and offers very good promotion prospects for the outstanding performer.

Promotion through the ranks of non commissioned officer is competitive and subject to vacancies. You will need to demonstrate sound trade skills, positive attitude and also to have successfully completed any qualifying trade tests and/or promotion examinations. The opportunity exists within the mustering for promotion to the rank of Warrant Officer.