RAF other ranks

The term used in the Royal Air Force (RAF) to refer to all ranks below commissioned officer level is other ranks (ORs). It includes warrant officers (WOs), non-commissioned officers (NCOs) and airmen.


United Kingdom Royal Air Force
No equivalent No equivalent No insignia
Warrant officer Flight sergeant Chief technician Sergeant Corporal Lance corporal
RAF Regiment only
Senior aircraftman/woman technician Senior aircraftman/woman Leading aircraftman/woman Aircraftman/Woman
United Kingdom Royal Air Force
No equivalent No equivalent No equivalent No equivalent No equivalent No equivalent
Master aircrew Flight sergeant aircrew Sergeant aircrew
Abbreviation WO/MAcr FS Chf Tech Sgt Cpl LCpl SAC Tech SAC LAC AC


Upon the formation of the Royal Air Force on 1 April 1918, rank titles and badges for ORs were adopted from the British Army, specifically the Royal Flying Corps (RFC). The RFC ranks of Flight Sergeant (equivalent to Staff Sergeant), Sergeant, Corporal and Air Mechanic were directly adopted. The RFC's four-bladed propeller trade classification badge above the Sergeants' and Flight Sergeants' chevrons was dropped.

To distinguish them from Army personnel, RAF personnel wore the RAF Eagle on a rectangular patch below the shoulder seam on the sleeve. The RAF Eagle is depicted with its beak turned to the rear rather than the front. RAF NCOs were fond of saying that represented that their eyes were everywhere.

The trade classification of Leading Aircraftman was created on 5th April 1918 to fill a void in the Service ranks. It was granted the double-bladed propeller rank insignia of the RFC Air Mechanic 1st Class and was equivalent in rank and authority to the Army appointment of Lance-Corporal. On 1 January 1919 the rank of Aircraftman replaced the ranks of Private, Air Mechanic, and Clerk. Aircraftmen were nicknamed "Erks" (a corruption of the word 'Aircraft') by the senior ranks, which was preferred to 'other ranks' or 'troops'.

The rank of Master Clerk was originally equivalent to Sergeant Major 1st Class. On 28 November 1918, the new rank of Chief Master Clerk was made equivalent to the rank of Sergeant Major 1st Class, and the old rank of Master Clerk was made equivalent to the rank of Sergeant Major 2nd Class.

RAF other ranks (1 April 1918)[1]RAF other ranks (1 January 1919)[2]
TechnicalAdministrativeServiceother ranks
Chief Master Mechanic(Chief Master Clerk)Sergeant Major 1st ClassSergeant Major 1st Class
Master Mechanic(Master Clerk)Sergeant Major 2nd ClassSergeant Major 2nd Class
Chief MechanicFlight ClerkFlight SergeantFlight Sergeant
Sergeant Mechanic Sergeant ClerkSergeantSergeant
Corporal Mechanic Corporal ClerkCorporalCorporal
Air Mechanic 1st ClassClerk 1st Class(Leading Aircraftman)Leading Aircraftman
Air Mechanic 2nd ClassClerk 2nd ClassPrivate 1st ClassAircraftman 1st Class
Air Mechanic 3rd ClassClerk 3rd ClassPrivate 2nd ClassAircraftman 2nd Class

The original RAF ranks are vertically listed by seniority; the Technical ranks had precedence over the Administrative ranks, which in turn had precedence over the Service ranks. This was meant to keep non-technical NCOs from interfering with the efforts of technical and administrative NCOs. This was abolished in January 1919 and a streamlined single-column rank system was devised.

Changes in 1933 & 1939 — warrant officers

In 1933, the ranks of Sergeant Major 1st Class and Sergeant Major 2nd Class were renamed Warrant Officer Class I and Warrant Officer Class II to put them in line with the Army. In 1939, the rank of Warrant Officer II was abolished and the rank of Warrant Officer I was renamed Warrant Officer. RAF Warrant Officers were given equivalent status to the continuing Army rank of Warrant Officer Class I.

Changes in 1946 — aircrew

On 1 July 1946, NCOs serving as aircrew were assigned different rank badges which distinguished them from ORs in ground trades. The new ranks were:

RAF aircrew ranks (1946-1950)
RAF aircrew rankequivalent RAF rankinsignia of rank
Master AircrewWarrant OfficerWreath closed by Royal Arms and inset with an RAF Eagle within.
Aircrew IFlight SergeantCrown over Wreath closed by an RAF Eagle and inset with three 6-pointed stars within.
Aircrew IISergeantWreath closed by an RAF Eagle and inset with three 6-pointed stars within.
Aircrew IIICorporalWreath closed by an RAF Eagle and inset with two 6-pointed stars within.
Aircrew IVLeading AircraftmanWreath closed by an RAF Eagle and inset with one 6-pointed star within.
Aircrew CadetTraineeWreath closed by an RAF Eagle and a blank field within.

The RAF Eagle in the insignia is properly displayed with its beak turned to the rear.

Changes in 1950 — technicians & aircrew

In 1950, a new grading system for technicians was introduced. This involved the creation of the following ranks:

Also in 1950, the unpopular NCO aircrew ranks were abolished, although Master Aircrew was retained as a rank. Aircrew I became Flight Sergeant Aircrew and Aircrew II, III and IV became Sergeant Aircrew. Both new ranks adopted a gold RAF Eagle between the chevrons to permit continuing distinction from ground trades. Aircrew cadets wore the RAF Eagle on its own as a trade classification badge.

Master AircrewFlight Sergeant AircrewSergeant Aircrew

Changes in 1951 — junior ranks

On 1 January 1951, two junior ranks were introduced:

Changes in 1964 — technicians

In 1964, the technician ranks were abolished, with the exception of Junior Technician and Chief Technician, the latter becoming an intermediate rank between Sergeant and Flight Sergeant for Technical Trades. Junior Technicians adopted the four-bladed propeller as their badge of rank and Chief Technicians adopted a treble chevron surmounted by a four-bladed propeller as their rank insignia. Master Technicians, Senior Technicians and Corporal Technicians became Warrant Officer, Sergeant and Corporal respectively. The ORs structure became:

Changes in 2005 — phasing out of Junior Technician

From 2005 onwards, no more airmen have been promoted to Junior Technician. Although there are currently personnel in the rank of Junior Technician, once they have all been promoted or discharged from the RAF, the rank will cease to be used. From March 2005, SACs in technical trades who had attained the Operational Performance Standard were promoted to Senior Aircraftman/Aircraftwoman (Technician) SAC(T) and given a new badge of rank, consisting of the three-bladed propeller inside a circle. This new rank was introduced, to distinguish airmen trained to work unsupervised from those who were not, and is equivalent to the old Junior Technician rank.

Changes in 2010 — introduction of Lance Corporal

On 1 April 2010, the RAF Regiment introduced the rank of Lance Corporal for current SACs who undertake the role of section second-in-command/fire team commander. This gives them more authority on the ground, as well as a better pay band. It seems that the rank will not be moving to other trades, and will be solely in the RAF Regiment.[3]

See also

NaviesArmiesAir forces
Commissioned and Non-commissioned officers
Admiral of
the fleet
Marshal or
Field marshal
Marshal of
the air force
AdmiralGeneralAir chief marshal
Vice admiralLieutenant generalAir marshal
Rear admiralMajor generalAir vice-marshal
CommodoreBrigadier or
Brigadier general
Air commodore
CaptainColonelGroup captain
CommanderLieutenant colonelWing commander
Major or
Squadron leader
LieutenantCaptainFlight lieutenant
Sub-lieutenantLieutenant or
First lieutenant
Flying officer
EnsignSecond lieutenantPilot officer
MidshipmanOfficer cadetFlight cadet
Enlisted grades
Warrant officer or
Chief petty officer
Warrant officer or
Sergeant major
Warrant officer
Petty officerSergeantSergeant
Leading seamanCorporalCorporal


  1. Air Ministry Weekly Order 109 (1921, reprint of 1923)
  2. Air Ministry Weekly Order 109 (1921, reprint of 1923)
  3. Lesley Woods, ed. (12 April 2010). "New Rank for the RAF Regiment". Royal Air Force website. www.RAF.mod.uk. Retrieved 16 March 2016.
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