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Air Force

Airborne Electronic Sensor Operator

Non-Commissioned Member | Full Time, Part Time

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As a member of the military, Airborne Electronic Sensor Operators use advanced electronic sensor systems onboard long-range patrol aircraft, maritime helicopters, search and rescue aircraft and remotely piloted aircraft.

They are responsible to participate as crewmembers on a variety of maritime and overland missions. Amongst others, missions include underwater warfare, above-water warfare, intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance (ISR) and search and rescue. They often provide assistance to other government departments and agencies in the collection of evidence on fisheries, pollution and counter-narcotics patrols.

Their primary technical responsibilities are to:

  • Perform common aircrew tasks on fixed wing, rotary wing and remotely-piloted aircraft
  • Conduct mission planning and preparation
  • Perform photo reconnaissance in an operational environment
  • Perform armament and search stores duties, to include arming/de-arming torpedoes, flairs, sono buoys and deploying survival kits
  • Manage tactical information using aircraft data management systems
  • Operate radar, electro-optic/infrared systems, magnetic anomaly detection (MAD) systems, acoustic systems and electronic support measures (ESM) equipment
  • Conduct helicopter utility operations such as personnel and cargo hoisting, cargo slinging and confined area operations
  • Performing as a helicopter door gunner
  • Conducting routine and tactical communications on radios and internal communication systems

Work environment

Airborne Electronic Sensor Operators normally work onboard aircraft; however they may also work on airbase flight lines, on ship flight decks and with operational ground support combat groups. They are usually stationed at bases on the East and West coasts of Canada. They deploy worldwide, in support of Canadian and Allied countries’ operations and exercises.

If you chose a career in the Regular Force, upon completion of all required training, you will be assigned to your first base. While there is some flexibility with regards to postings (relocations), accommodations can’t always be made, and therefore, you can likely expect to move at some point in your career. However, if you decide to join the Primary Reserve Force, you will do so through a specific Reserve unit. Outside of training, your chosen Reserve unit will be your workplace on a part time basis, and you will not be obligated to relocate to a different base. As part of the Primary Reserve Force, you typically work one night per week and some weekends as a minimum with possibilities of full-time employment.

Career Overview





I’m Master Corporal Ian Boughton from London, Ontario, and I'm an Airborne Electronic Sensor Operator.





Airborne electronic sensor operators, or an AESOP - we fly on the Aurora and cyclone aircraft and operate a whole host of different mission systems and sensors ranging from radar, sonar, sonobuoys, electro optic cameras.


AESOP’s collect and relay critical surveillance and reconnaissance information from their aircraft to Navy ships at sea and to troops on the ground. This could be in a naval task force conducting anti-submarine warfare, anti-surface warfare, counter-drug operations, and fishery and sovereignty patrols. Or in a collaboration with the Army gathering information on targets and enemy forces.




Here in Shearwater, I fly on the CH148 cyclone helicopter. It's a multi-mission helicopter. Its primary job is anti-submarine warfare, ASW, but it's also capable of a whole host of other jobs ranging from search and rescue, utility missions. Anything that we get tasked with by the Navy or the Air Force.


There's also the Aurora in Greenwood and Comox, the long range patrol aircraft. They do sort of similar work to what we do on the cyclone, just there's a lot more of the AESOP’s on the Auroras.



The Aurora flies with a crew of 12, five of whom are AES Ops – while on the Cyclone, there’s one AES Op on a crew of four. 

Airborne electronic sensor operators need to extract the right information at the right time from their sensors and deliver to the right people clearly and concisely.


The critical intelligence they provide can save lives, keep troops safe, and reduce collateral damage.


Other roles in this job include serving as the door gunner on helicopters and operating the aircrafts hoist.


As they perfect their skills. AESOPs could be assigned to work on missions in northern Canada, in overseas operations with other nations, or as part of the air detachment on maritime operations.


There are also AES Ops working the sensors on Canada’s new Kingfisher Search and Rescue aircraft and on drones.






The coolest thing about being an AESOP on the maritime helicopter, on the cyclone, it's just the variety of the different missions and tasks we get to do.  While we're at sea deployed. We're doing a lot of recognized maritime picture, flying out, seeing what's out there on the water. But then we're also doing other activities like hoisting, the slinging, taking imagery. So it really keeps things varied and interesting.  And just getting to travel

too by getting to see the world. That's definitely the most exciting part of this job for me.


Some of the highlights of my career so far have definitely been the chance to deploy last year in the Mediterranean, seeing some of the most impressive sights in the world like the Acropolis in Athens, in Greece.  Going to some of the great cities in the world, like Barcelona, Sicily, to seeing great sights and going out with my friends on the dets and making some great memories. That's definitely a highlight for me at this job.



Related Civilian Occupations

  • Airborne Radar Operator
  • Airborne Survey Operator
  • Law Enforcement Thermographer


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.

Following Environmental Training (Land and Sea survival as well as Aeromedical Training) candidates attend the 4 month Basic Airborne Electronic Sensor Operator Course at 17 Wing in Winnipeg, Manitoba. This training develops the core competencies required to function as an aircrew member. The course syllabus includes the following basic topics:

  • Basic aviation concepts and theory of flight
  • Basic meteorology
  • Human Performance in Military Aviation
  • Conducting flight duties
  • Conducting radio communications & monitor ATC clearances
  • Basic electronic warfare & electronic sensor theory
  • Airfield operations
  • Airborne radar operations
  • Basic airborne navigation
  • Identifying targets using radar, electronic support measures and electro-optic/infrared sensors

Following the Basic Airborne Electronic Sensor Operator Course, candidates will complete operational aircrew training on one of three platforms, either the CP140M Aurora at 14 Wing Greenwood, NS, the CH148 Cyclone at 12 Wing Shearwater, NS or the CC295 Kingfisher at 19 Wing Comox.  Upon completion of this 6 month long operational aircrew training, candidates will reach the operationally functional point and will be available for first employment.

Airborne Electronic Sensor Operator may be offered the opportunity to develop specialized skills through formal courses and on-the-job training, including:

  • Flight Instructor 
  • Aircrew Standards 
  • Operational Test & Evaluation
  • Flying Supervisor 
  • Project Management

As they progress in their career, Airborne Electronic Sensor Operators who demonstrate the required ability and potential will be offered advanced training. Available courses include:

  • Advanced electronic warfare
  • Advanced acoustic analysis
  • Advanced electronic intelligence analysis
  • Tactical electronic warfare instructor training
  • Instructional techniques
  • Leadership and management specialty training
  • Advanced survival, escape and evasion

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 a high school diploma in Canada including Grade 10 Academic Math or Québec Secondary 5 with Math 426 or 436 / SN 4/TS 4.

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

This occupation is only open to members of the Regular Force who have been trained as Airborne Electronic Sensor Operators and wish to transfer to the Reserve Force or former military members who have the Airborne Electronic Sensor Operator qualification.

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. They are paid 92.8 percent of Regular Force rates of pay, receive a reasonable benefits package and may qualify to contribute to a pension plan.