University Air Squadron

This article is about the University Air Squadrons of the British Royal Air Force. For the former units of the Royal Australian Air Force, see RAAF University Squadrons.

University Air Squadrons are training units of the Royal Air Force which primarily provide basic flying training, force development and adventurous training to undergraduate students at British universities. These units exist to provide a taste of life in the Service and to give experience to their members in preparation for taking up a career as an officer in one of the RAF's many branches.

Members are expected to attend training nights, usually on a weekly basis, as well as attending several annual training camp. The flying syllabus of 31 sorties loosely follows Elementary Flying Training (EFT), and allows a student to achieve some ten to fifteen hours of flying per year. The flying training is supplemented with ground training and adventurous training, both in the UK and abroad.

The UASs are part of the RAF Volunteer Reserve (RAFVR). Many are parents to Air Experience Flights (AEF) which provide experience of flying to Air Cadets. Most students hold the rank of Officer Cadet, which has the status and privileges - but not the rank - of an Officer. Some may obtain commissions in the RAF Volunteer Reserve, in the rank of Acting Pilot Officer. Medicine and dentistry students, on obtaining a Cadetship, are commissioned into the RAF in the rank of Pilot Officer, and are offered a salary; following graduation Cadets will be promoted to Flying Officer while their medical training continues, prior to commencing Initial Officer Training.

On the run-up to World War II the squadrons were an important source of pilots for the RAF during the Battle of Britain. Cadets who were already members of the RAFVR were called up for active service in the middle of studying for their degrees.


Most UAS training is a cut-down version of EFT and focuses on training the student to various levels of solo standard.

Manchester University Air Squadron Scottish Aviation Bulldog at RAF Woodvale in 1983
A Grob Tutor T1, belonging to the University of Birmingham Air Squadron, in flight over Scotland

Successful completion of the Core Syllabus qualifies the student pilot for the award of the Preliminary Flying Badge, or 'Budgie Wings' as they are sometimes called. However, each student is expected to reach solo standard before the end of their second year on the squadron. This has become one of the criteria for granting a student member a third year of membership.

For those Officer Cadets who finish the Core syllabus with time remaining on the squadron, an advanced syllabus has recently been introduced consisting of Aerobatics, Formation Flying and Low Level Navigation. There is no specific time requirement as with the core syllabus, as progress in the advanced phase is made at a rate by which the student pilot is able to achieve the desired results.

Beyond flying, UASs follow a loose Ground Training syllabus. Although squadrons generally do not follow the syllabus as a training plan, the majority of subjects are covered at some point through the students' academic year. These can include attending Adventure Training expeditions, both overseas and within the UK, learning drill, undertaking a fieldcraft exercise such as the recent 'Strike' exercises run at RAFC Cranwell, understanding the principles of air power and developing leadership skills. "Staff Rides" are also undertaken to encourage an understanding of air power in both a historical and contemporary context.

As the UAS continues to move beyond its former role of providing Elementary Flying Training to RAF Direct Entry students and UAS Students, more and more ground training opportunities are becoming available, making the UASs more suitable for Officer Cadets pursuing careers in the military other than aircrew. However, the emphasis and priority remain on flying as the core function of each UAS.

UAS Officer Cadets are required to participate in a minimum amount of training: one training night a week during the university terms) which usually entails a guest speaker presenting on an aspect of the RAF or the military to develop service knowledge; and a two-week period of continuous training in the summer. Most squadrons however also offer camps at Easter, Christmas, and September for Officer Cadets to undertake intensive blocs of sport, flying and adventure training.

Additionally, students are offered a limited number week-long Summer Vacation Attachment at another RAF base, where they are seconded to an active regular RAF unit to learn more about their role.

Sports and adventure training

In accordance with the overall UAS syllabus, there are many opportunities for Officer Cadets to participate in inter-UAS sports competitions and adventure training expeditions.

The UASs hold annual sporting competitions such as;

Additionally, there are frequent squadron expeditions in areas such as the Lake District, Force Development Training Centre Fairbourne, and overseas in countries such as Italy, France (Corsica), Spain and Canada. Expeditions can include all manner of adventurous training, such as mountain biking, rock climbing, abseiling, white water rafting, dog sledding, coasteering, gorge walking and canoeing.

Units and base locations

Name Acronym Base
University of Birmingham Air Squadron UBAS RAF Cosford[1]
Bristol University Air Squadron BUAS Colerne Airfield[2]
Cambridge University Air Squadron CUAS RAF Wittering[3]
East Midlands Universities Air Squadron EMUAS RAF Cranwell[4]
East of Scotland Universities Air Squadron ESUAS RAF Leuchars[5]
Universities of Glasgow and Strathclyde Air Squadron UGSAS Glasgow Airport[6]
Liverpool University Air Squadron LUAS RAF Woodvale[7]
University of London Air Squadron ULAS RAF Wittering[8]
Manchester and Salford Universities Air Squadron MASUAS RAF Woodvale[9]
Northumbrian Universities Air Squadron NUAS RAF Leeming[10]
Northern Ireland Universities Air Squadron NIUAS RAF Aldergrove[11]
Oxford University Air Squadron OUAS RAF Benson[12]
Southampton University Air Squadron SUAS MoD Boscombe Down[13]
University of Wales Air Squadron UWAS MoD St Athan[14]
Yorkshire Universities Air Squadron YUAS RAF Linton-on-Ouse[15]

See also


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