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Air Force

Aerospace Control Operator

Non-Commissioned Member | Full Time, Part Time

In Demand

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Aerospace Control Operators operate radar, computer, communications and other sensor systems for the surveillance and control of airspace.

The Aerospace Control Operator controls and coordinates the movement of military and civilian air/ground traffic at Canadian Armed Forces (CAF) aerodromes and tactical units. The primary responsibilities are to:

  • Operate command and control systems
  • Provide ground control instructions to aircraft and vehicular traffic operating on the ground and flight advisory to aircraft
  • Receive, relay and record flight plan information
  • Interpret weather reports
  • Maintain records
  • Respond to emergency situations

Work environment

Aerospace Control Operators’ working environment can be underground or onboard aircrafts. They may be employed throughout Canada, the United States and Europe. Aerospace Control Operators can also further operate Air Traffic Control services such as flight advisory, ground control and Precision Radar control to the Wings and Tactical Helicopter squadrons across Canada.

Career Overview





CORPORAL RYAN BRAID: I’m Corporal Ryan Braid from Ottawa. I’m an Aerospace Control Operator currently serving at 22 Wing, North Bay, Ontario.

Aerospace Control Operators, or AC Ops, help manage air traffic at Royal Canadian Air Force bases and work to protect Canadian families, homes and cities by keeping our airspace safe.  

Aerospace Control Operators who are initially trained in Airfield Operations work in an instrument flight rules terminal as data operators and Precision Approach Radar controllers. They also work in the control tower as data operators or ground controllers, recording flight plans, interpreting weather reports, maintaining records and helping to keep vehicles and aircraft operating on the airfield moving smoothly and safely. 

Aerospace Control Operators who are initially trained in Air Sovereignty Operations work primarily at the Canadian Air Defence Sector in North Bay, Ontario, where they monitor and analyze radar data from across the country and the far North, keeping track of everything in the skies, including civilian aircraft, protecting North America from potential military or terrorist threats.

BRAID: We are in charge of tracking all aircraft inbound into North America, whether it’s a foreign aircraft entering space that it shouldn’t be, whether it’s a ship in distress in more of a search and rescue component, or if there’s an airliner that’s in trouble – we’re ready to answer the bell. Just dealing with aircraft on a daily basis, it’s just been a passion where I’ve invested all my time and skillset. Whether it’s talking with aircraft navigating airspaces, I feel like you have kind of the god’s-eye view if you will, in terms of being able to see the whole situation unfolding.

Aerospace Control Operators lead the way for the RCAF in the surveillance of outer space. That includes monitoring space objects that could pose a threat to our satellites or the International Space Station, and tasking satellites for imagery of objects in space. 

BRAID: We’re in charge of helping to take photos and contribute to this overall picture of space, to ensure the continued safe travel of future rockets being sent up into space.

AC Ops also work in Canada’s three joint rescue coordination centres to support search and rescue missions across the country. And they have numerous opportunities to deploy on a wide range of missions around the world – from austere airfield activation in support of humanitarian relief, to full-spectrum combat operations.

BRAID: The cool part is: every day is different. We could come in one day and it’s just a normal few exercises or fighter missions; the next day we have a real, live emergency that we need to spring into action. That’s when the weapons pit is activated and the order may come down to scramble our fighter jets to go check out what’s going on.

On completion of their occupation training, AC Ops are typically assigned to a military air traffic control facility, either in the tower or terminal, or to the Canadian Air Defence Sector in North Bay, Ontario.  

While it can be very overwhelming at first, new AC Ops start off working under the supervision of experienced colleagues showing them the ropes, giving them little tips and tricks on things that can make their job easier, and ensuring that they’re doing the right things.

BRAID: There’s a lot of emphasis on, kind of, situational awareness and the ability to multi-task – so you have to have the ability to kind of prioritize exactly what’s going to happen, and as well, determine what can be done immediately and what can wait. It’s very challenging but it’s also very rewarding.

As their career progresses, there is a wide range of opportunities for specialized training and postings in areas like precision approach radar operations, space monitoring, and AWACS airborne command and control operations in the United States and overseas. There are also opportunities to work at a deployable tactical radar unit or at a Combat Operations Centre.

With more advanced training, Aerospace Control Operators may have the opportunity to become Flight Advisors, supporting tactical helicopter operations domestically and on international deployments. And AC Operators are the RCAF’s experts for tactical data link operations, managing a complex network of digital weapons systems and airborne sensors.

BRAID: I think it’s an absolutely rewarding career. There’s a ton of extra benefits that the military provides to you – great pay and the ability to see the world. I had the opportunity to travel to Hawaii recently on Operation RIMPAC where it gave me exposure to over 20 other nations – the opportunities are endless.




Related Civilian Occupations

  • Air Traffic Controller
  • Railway and Maritime Controller


The first stage of training is the Basic Military Qualification course, or Basic Training, held at the Canadian Forces Leadership and Recruit School in Saint-Jean-sur-Richelieu, Quebec. This training provides the basic core skills and knowledge common to all trades. A goal of this course is to ensure that all recruits maintain the Canadian Armed Forces (CAF) physical fitness standard; as a result, the training is physically demanding.

Learn more about Basic Training here.

Aerospace Control Operators attend the Canadian Forces School of Aerospace Control Operations in Cornwall, Ontario. Training takes approximately three months and includes:

  • Performing the surveillance function
  • Assist with Visual Flight Rule services
  • Assist with Instrument Flight Rule services
  • Performing the Air Traffic Services function

Aerospace Control Operators may be offered the opportunity to develop specialized skills through formal courses and on-the-job training, including:

  • Precision Approach Radar Controller
  • Data Systems Coordinator
  • Air Communication Control Squadron System

Entry plans

No previous work experience or career related skills are required. CAF recruiters can help you decide if your personal interests and attributes match the criteria for this occupation.

The minimum required education to apply for this occupation is the completion of the provincial requirements for Grade 10 or Secondary 4 in Quebec with Grade 10 applied Math or Math 416 / CST 4 in Quebec.

Foreign education may be accepted.

Part time options

This position is available for part-time employment with the Primary Reserve at certain locations across Canada. Reserve Force members usually serve part time at an Air Force Wing in their community. They are not posted or required to do a military move. However, they can volunteer to move to another base. They may also volunteer for deployment on a military mission within or outside Canada.

Reserve Force members usually begin training with their home unit to ensure that they meet the required basic professional military standards. Following basic military training, the home unit will arrange for additional training for specialized skills. Training for the Aerospace Control Operator qualification requires about two months and is conducted at the Canadian Forces School of Aerospace Control Operations in Cornwall, Ontario.

Air Reserve members are trained to the same level as their Regular Force counterparts and are employed in the same unit and perform the same job. Air Reserve members usually serve up to 12 days per month in a regular work day, with opportunities to serve full-time for short durations as needed. Reserve Force members are paid 92.8% of Regular Force rates of pay, receive a reasonable benefits package and may qualify to contribute to apension plan.