Insights into an RSAF career

Military pilot career with the Republic of Singapore Airforce (RSAF).

The career of a military pilot is a very challenging one. Life does not get easier for a new pilot after he completes the advanced military pilot training course and gets the coveted RSAF wings. An RSAF pilot at this early stage of his career will undergo courses in an operational squadron to learn how to fly the aircraft to execute real missions. This is known as a pilot’s operational conversion course. Specifically, he will learn how to maximise the full potential of his aircraft and carry out combat operations.

Operational CAT

Operational categories (CAT) are given to a military pilot to depict his flying experience and proficiency. There are 4 CAT grades. It takes on average a year to upgrade from one CAT to the subsequent higher one. A new pilot that completes his operational conversion will be awarded a “CAT D”. He is expected to improve with experience and upgrade himself to a “CAT C”, “CAT B”, and eventually “CAT A”. Once he attains his “CAT B” status, a pilot is considered to be a senior one. However, if a pilot’s performance is not up standards, he can still be “de-winged” at any time.

Staff Work

An RSAF pilot will at some point be posted to staff positions during the course of his military pilot career. These staff postings could be to the Ministry of Defence or other departments in the SAF. A staff officer is essentially doing a desk bound office job. Depending on the department he is in, the staff officer could be involved in administrative work that supports operations, or policy development. Staff pilots still go back to their parent squadrons to fly, but they usually fly a lot less. Due to their office workload, staff pilots typically fly just enough to maintain their flying currency. Many pilots do not enjoy their staff postings because they want to fly frequently. But staff jobs help officers to develop their critical thinking and writing skills. In addition, staff jobs can sometimes provide better work-life balance relative to the fast pace of flying squadrons.


The starting salary for an RSAF pilot can range from $2000 to $3600 for non-degree holders. For university graduates, starting pay can be between $4000 to $7000. An RSAF pilot can expect to receive a salary in excess of $10000 within 5 to 10 years. A senior ranking RSAF pilot (Lieutenant Colonel and above) can earn in excess of $15000 a month. A pilot career in the RSAF does pay pretty well!

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