Aircraftman (AC) or aircraftwoman (ACW)[1][2][3] is the lowest rank in the British Royal Air Force (RAF) and the air forces of several other Commonwealth countries. In RAF slang, aircraftmen are sometimes called "erks".[4]

Aircraftman ranks below leading aircraftman and has a NATO rank code of OR-1. It is now a training rank only and no airmen in productive service hold this rank. Aircraftmen do not wear any rank insignia.


The rank was introduced to the RAF in January 1919, replacing the rank prefixes of "Air Mechanic", "Private" and "Clerk" that had been introduced under Air Memorandum No 1 in March 1918. There were three grades: leading aircraftman (LAC), aircraftman 1st class (AC1) and aircraftman 2nd class. A similar grading existed for junior ratings in the Royal Navy.[5] The rank of senior aircraftman (SAC) was introduced on 1 January 1951.

The lowest grade was an AC2; also colloquially known as an "AC plonk".[6] With effect from 1 April 1964, the gradings of AC1 and AC2 were abolished, with "aircraftman" becoming the entry rank.[7]

Royal Canadian Air Force

In the Royal Canadian Air Force, the rank is also known by the French term of aviateur. This was changed from private in spring 2015 when the RCAF changed the colour of its rank insignia from gold to pearl grey. It is the lowest rank in the RCAF. Prior to 1968 the rank of aircraftman was used in the RCAF as in other Commonwealth air forces.[8] An aircraftman in the cadet stage is called aviator (recruit).

Royal Australian Air Force

The Royal Australian Air Force also uses both aircraftman and aircraftwoman.[9]

Royal Malaysian Air Force

Thee Royal Malaysian Air Force has four aircraftman ranks:

  • Leading aircraftman (laskar udara kanan)
  • Aircraftman 1st class (laskar udara I)
  • Aircraftman 2nd class (laskar udara II)
  • Aircraftman recruit (perajurit muda)

Royal New Zealand Air Force

In the Royal New Zealand Air Force, the rank is known as "aircraftman", regardless of the person's sex, in line with "seaman" in the Royal New Zealand Navy.[10]

See also


  1. ^ "RAF Distinguishing Insignia" (PDF). Archived from the original (PDF) on 7 March 2017. Retrieved 7 March 2017.
  2. ^ RAF website
  3. ^ The spellings "aircraftsman" and "aircraftswoman", despite being occasionally seen even in official documents, are incorrect in any air force.
  4. ^ "erk". Oxford English Dictionary (3rd ed.). Oxford University Press. September 2005. (Subscription or UK public library membership required.)
  5. ^ Perkins, Dave. "Royal Navy Branches, Ranks and Ratings, 1918". Retrieved 14 May 2017.
  6. ^ Partridge, Eric (2000). A dictionary of slang and unconventional English : colloquialisms and catch phrases, fossilised jokes and puns, general nicknames, vulgarisms and such Americanisms as have been naturalised (8 ed.). London: Routledge. p. 1. ISBN 0-415-06568-2.
  7. ^ Jefford, C.G. (2010). Observers and Navigators: And Other Non-Pilot Aircrew in the RFC, RNAS and RAF. London: Grub Street. p. 285. ISBN 978-1-909808-02-7. Air Ministry Order A.80/1963 of 6 March 1963 replaced the AC1 and AC2 with just 'Aircraftman' with effect from 1 April 1964
  8. ^ "A Return to the Royal Canadian Aor Forec Ranks; a Historical Examination" (PDF). rcaf-arc.forces. 2014. p. 12. Retrieved 2 August 2017.
  9. ^ "Air Force Ranks - Royal Australian Air Force". Retrieved 2 August 2017.
  10. ^ "RNZAF - RNZAF Ranks". Retrieved 2 August 2017.
Air Force ranks and insignia of Chile

Ranks and insignia, similar to the Royal Air Force but adapted to suit the origins of the Chilean Air Force, are worn on shoulder collars and cuffs. General officers have the Condor eagle in their shoulder collars while officer cadets have a unique symbol, that of the Aviation School "Captain Manuel Ávalos Prado", on their shoulder collars. On the NCOs and enlistees, only Subofficer Majors and Subofficers wear both shoulder and cuff insignia, while Graduate Soldiers wear a double capital letter E (for the Air Force Specialties School "First Sergeant Adolfo Menandier Rojas") on their shoulder collars alongside their unique cuff marking.

Australian Defence Force ranks

The Australian Defence Force's (ADF) ranks of officers and enlisted personnel in each of its three service branches of the Royal Australian Navy (RAN), the Australian Army, and the Royal Australian Air Force (RAAF) inherited their rank structures from their British counterparts. The insignia used to identify these ranks are also generally similar to those used in the British Armed Forces.

The following tables show the "equivalent rank and classifications" for the three services, as defined in the ADF Pay and Conditions Manual. "Equivalent rank" means the corresponding rank set out under Regulation 8 of the Defence Force Regulations 1952.

Comparative air force enlisted ranks of Africa

Rank comparison chart of enlisted rank for Air Forces of African states.

Comparative air force enlisted ranks of Asia

Rank comparison chart of air forces of Asian states.

Comparative air force enlisted ranks of Europe

Rank comparison chart of air forces enlisted personnel of European states.

Comparative air force enlisted ranks of the Commonwealth

Rank comparison chart of air forces of Commonwealth of Nations states.

Junior technician

Junior technician (Jnr Tech or formerly J/T) is a junior non-commissioned rank in the Royal Air Force, the Pakistan Air Force and the Royal Danish Air Force. In the RAF it ranks equivalent to senior aircraftman technician (SAC (T)), equivalent to senior aircraftman (SAC) and below corporal and has a NATO rank code of OR-2. Since 2005, the RAF has ceased promoting to and therefore phasing out of this rank, to be replaced by SAC(T).

Leading aircraftman

Leading aircraftman (LAC) or leading aircraftwoman (LACW) is a junior rank in some air forces. It sits between aircraftman and senior aircraftman, and has a NATO rank code of OR-2. The rank badge is a horizontal two-bladed propeller.

The rank originated in the Royal Air Force, when it was formed in 1918. It replaced the Royal Flying Corps rank of air mechanic 1st class (which wore the same badge). It was only a trade classification until 1 January 1951, when it became a rank, although it is non-supervisory.

Leading aircraftman is also a rank in the Royal Australian Air Force (which uses a single chevron rather than a propeller device), Royal New Zealand Air Force, Indian Air Force, Ghana Air Force and the Sri Lanka Air Force, and until 1968 was a rank in the Royal Canadian Air Force.

Leading air cadet (LAC) in the New Zealand Air Training Corps also uses the propeller badge. It is not technically a rank (although many units regard it as a very junior NCO rank), and may be awarded to cadets who have attended a minimum of thirty parades, or completed one year in a unit. The rank is generally awarded to those cadets who show obvious leadership skill.

Malaysian military ranks

The following tables present the ranks of the Malaysian Armed Forces.

Military ranks of Zimbabwe

The Military ranks of Zimbabwe are the military insignia used by the Zimbabwe Defence Forces. Being a former British colony, Zimbabwe shares a rank structure similar to that of United Kingdom. Zimbabwe is a landlocked country, and does therefore not possess a navy.

Other ranks (UK)

Other ranks (ORs) in the Royal Marines, British Army, Royal Air Force and in the armies and air forces of many other Commonwealth countries are those personnel who are not commissioned officers, usually including non-commissioned officers (NCOs). (In the Royal Navy, these personnel are called "ratings" rather than "other ranks". Non-commissioned member is the equivalent term for the Canadian Armed Forces.) Colloquially, members of the other ranks are known as "rankers".The term is often considered to exclude warrant officers, and occasionally also excludes NCOs. Formally, a regiment consists of the "officers, warrant officers, non-commissioned officers and men" or the "officers, warrant officers and other ranks".

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.

Ranks and insignia of NATO air forces enlisted

The following are the ranks and insignia of NATO Air Forces Enlisted personnel for each member nation.

Ranks and insignia of the Luftwaffe (1935–1945)

The ranks of the Luftwaffe were similar to other branches of the Wehrmacht.

Ranks of the Royal Australian Air Force

The rank structure of the Royal Australian Air Force (RAAF) has been inherited from the Royal Air Force (RAF). The RAF based its officer ranks on the Royal Navy, and its airmen ranks on the British Army.

Unlike the RAF, RAAF rank abbreviations are always written in uppercase without spaces (e.g. Pilot Officer is written as PLTOFF, not Plt Off). Also, the RAAF does not have the ranks of Senior Aircraftman, Junior Technician, Chief Technician or Master Aircrew.

The rank insignia is very similar to that of the RAF, with the exception of Leading Aircraftman (LAC)/Leading Aircraftwoman (LACW) which is one chevron (two bladed propeller in RAF). Both officers and airmen wear rank insignia on the chest when wearing General Purpose Uniform or Disruptive Pattern Combat Uniform. Rank insignia is worn on the shoulder in all other orders of dress with the exception of the Service Dress tunic (where it is worn on the lower sleeve for officers and Warrant Officers and the upper sleeve for airmen) and the working uniform of Physical Training Instructors where it is worn on the sleeve. The word 'Australia' appears immediately below all rank insignia worn on the shoulder or chest.

The most senior active rank of the RAAF, Air Marshal – a three-star rank, is held by the Chief of Air Force. On the occasions that the Chief of the Defence Force is an office of the RAAF, the rank of Air Chief Marshal in awarded to the officer. The rank of Marshal of the Royal Australian Air Force has never been held as an active rank and it is currently held as an honorary rank by HRH Prince Philip, Duke of Edinburgh.

Senior aircraftman

Senior aircraftman (SAC) or senior aircraftwoman (SACW) is a rank in the Royal Air Force, ranking between leading aircraftman and senior aircraftman technician (SAC(T)) (although SACs in non-technical trades progress directly to corporal) and having a NATO rank code of OR-2. The rank, which is non-supervisory, was introduced on 1 January 1951. The rank badge is a three-bladed propeller.

Senior aircraftman technician

Senior Aircraftman Technician (SAC Tech or formerly SAC(T)) is a rank in the Royal Air Force, ranking between Senior Aircraftman and Corporal and having a NATO rank code of OR-2. SAC Technicians are not NCOs and cannot administratively discipline other personnel.The rank, which is self-supervisory, was introduced in 2000 to replace Junior Technician (although Junior Technicians promoted before this date retain their rank). The rank badge is a three-bladed propeller inside a circle.

From March 2005, SACs in technical trades who had attained the Operational Performance Standard were promoted to SAC Tech. This rank was introduced to distinguish airmen trained to work unsupervised from those who were not.

T. E. Lawrence

Thomas Edward Lawrence, (16 August 1888 – 19 May 1935) was a British archaeologist, army officer, diplomat, and writer. He was renowned for his liaison role during the Sinai and Palestine Campaign and the Arab Revolt against the Ottoman Empire during the First World War. The breadth and variety of his activities and associations, and his ability to describe them vividly in writing, earned him international fame as Lawrence of Arabia, a title used for the 1962 film based on his wartime activities.

He was born out of wedlock in Tremadog, Wales in August 1888 to Sarah Junner, a Scottish governess, and Thomas Chapman, an Anglo-Irish nobleman from County Westmeath. Chapman left his wife and family in Ireland to cohabit with Junner; in 1914 he became Sir Thomas Chapman, 7th Baronet. Chapman and Junner called themselves Mr. and Mrs. Lawrence, a name probably adopted from Sarah's likely father; Sarah’s mother had been employed as a servant for a Lawrence family when she became pregnant with Sarah. In 1889, the family moved to Kirkcudbright in Scotland where his brother William George was born, before moving to Dinard in France. In 1896, the Lawrences moved to Oxford, where Thomas attended the high school and then studied history at Jesus College from 1907 to 1910. Between 1910 and 1914, he worked as an archaeologist for the British Museum, chiefly at Carchemish in Ottoman Syria.

Soon after the outbreak of war, he volunteered for the British Army and was stationed in Egypt. In 1916, he was sent to Arabia on an intelligence mission and quickly became involved with the Arab Revolt as a liaison to the Arab forces, along with other British officers. He worked closely with Emir Faisal, a leader of the revolt, and he participated in and sometimes led military activities against the Ottoman armed forces, culminating in the capture of Damascus in October 1918.

After the war, Lawrence joined the Foreign Office, working with the British government and with Faisal. He was offered both the Victoria Cross and a knighthood but declined both. In 1922, he retreated from public life and spent the years until 1935 serving as an enlisted man, mostly in the Royal Air Force, with a brief stint in the Army. During this time, he published his best-known work Seven Pillars of Wisdom, an autobiographical account of his participation in the Arab Revolt. He also translated books into English and wrote The Mint, which was published posthumously and detailed his time in the Royal Air Force working as an ordinary aircraftman. He corresponded extensively and was friendly with well-known artists, writers, and politicians. For the Royal Air Force, he participated in the development of rescue motorboats.

Lawrence's public image resulted in part from the sensationalised reporting of the Arab revolt by American journalist Lowell Thomas, as well as from Seven Pillars of Wisdom. In 1935, Lawrence was fatally injured in a motorcycle accident in Dorset.

Navies Armies Air forces
Commissioned officers
Admiral of
the fleet
Field marshal or
General of the army
Marshal of
the air force
Admiral General Air chief marshal
Vice admiral Lieutenant general Air marshal
Rear admiral Major general Air vice-marshal
Commodore Brigadier or
brigadier general
Air commodore
Captain Colonel Group captain
Commander Lieutenant colonel Wing commander
Major or
Squadron leader
Lieutenant Captain Flight lieutenant
junior grade
Lieutenant or
first lieutenant
Flying officer
Ensign or
Second lieutenant Pilot officer
Officer cadet Officer cadet Flight cadet
Enlisted grades
Warrant officer or
chief petty officer
Warrant officer or
sergeant major
Warrant officer
Petty officer Sergeant Flight sergeant
Leading seaman Corporal or
Seaman Private or
gunner or
Aircraftman or


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