How to become a Military Pilot

Becoming a military pilot is an incredibly difficult, buy incredibly rewarding career path. Guaranteed employment, attractive pay and free training make for high incentives to join, attracting an incredible number of would be applicants to recruiting centers. For this reason, military’s around the world can be incredibly selective about who they let even apply for the role, strict with their applicant screening process, and then of course incredibly hard on their trainee pilots and fresh graduates – demanding the utmost best performance out of them.

“When once you have tasted flight, you will forever walk the earth with your eyes turned skyward, for there you have been, and there you will always long to return.”

Leonardo Da Vinci
military pilot
Advanced trainers like this high performance Turboprop have trained thousands of military pilots

Meet the requirements

Before you can start your military flight training, there are a number of requirements you will need to pass before you will even be allowed to apply for the role. Each country and service are different, and requirements within one service can even range depending on your previous experience (for example, if you were previously a military pilot of a different nation). Typically though, no recognition of prior learning or service is given.


Most military pilots are required to have passes in high school education in Science, English and mathematics. Whilst you don’t need to be a mathematical genius, the recruiting process is highly competitive, so naturally those with higher grades are sought after more by recruiters. It is a good idea to put in as much effort as possible during your education to get the best result you can, which maximises your options and gives you a competitive advantage over other pilot candidates. If you haven’t completed high school, you can complete mature age student bridging programs and university courses to receive academic transcripts to provide to the recruiters.

Health and Fitness

Military pilots must meet strict health standards and be able to pass rigorous fitness selection standards. This is due to the demanding work environment of a military pilot, which subjects your body to significant stress – a high baseline level of physical fitness is therefore in your best interest, and the best interest of the military.

A common test used is the beep test, which measures cardiovascular ability. Other forms of cardiovascular testing include ‘the run’ (timed runs), and fitness testing can include meeting a minimum number of push-ups or a flexed arm hang, and meeting a number of sit ups.


Because you will be potentially working with sensitive information and advanced weaponry, you must be able to meet a strict security check. This means having no criminal history, and being accountable to the military for a government check for your whereabouts, living arrangements, sexual preference, lifestyle, family, friends and wider networks. These checks will dig deep into your past and history and uncover sometimes potentially embaressing things (this is actually the point of them) so just be honest, and don’t try to hide anything.

Pass Recruiting screening and checks

After meeting initial requirements, pilot candidates will then go on to ever increasing levels of difficulty in recruiting screening and checks. This includes psychological screenings, in-depth aptitude testing, specialist flight testing (which may include simulators or actual flying) and teamwork and leadership exercises.

Complete basic (recruit) training and become an Officer

After selection to become a military pilot candidate, you will become appointed as an offer and sent to complete your basic (recruit) training. This will vary from organisation to organisation, but most initial recruit training courses take between 4 to 6 months. After this period, you will graduate as an officer and may typically wear the rank of officer cadet, or as an O-1 level officer (such as 2nd lieutenant).

This is an incredibly challenging time, as the military literally breaks you down and rebuilds you into a reliable, trustworthy officer and pilot trainee.

Complete Basic flight training

Upon completion of basic training, most military pilots will now embark on basic flight training which usually takes 6 months or so. This will see pilot candidates progress through to above a commercial pilot licence and basic IFR level, and is usually flown on a smaller, more basic aircraft such as a piston engine propeller aircraft like the Tudor or CT4B – however there is a growing trend in modern military’s for basic training to be conducted in advanced trainers such as the Texan or PC-21 high performance turboprops. This will prepare them to complete their advanced flight training on a more sophisticated aircraft. Some pilots may go directly from basic training onto their operational conversion.

Complete Advanced flight training

Advanced flight training is usually conducted on a more sophisticated aircraft such as turboprops or light jets – the Texan, PC-21 or introductory fighters like the Hawk or Talon aircraft. This allows for more advanced concepts such as time critical navigation sorties, formation flying, compound emergencies, advanced aerobatics and Basic Fighter Manoeuvring. Advanced flight training typically takes up to 12 months.

Complete operational conversion

Following advanced flight training, operational conversion onto a final type of military aircraft can take from 3 to 12 months, but is most commonly around 6 months. This is the pinnacle of your training as a military pilot and is often some of the most difficult training experienced, with very long days and many flying hours in both the aircraft and simulators, which then sets you up for your first career assignment of usually between 3 to 4 years on that aircraft.


Becoming a military pilot is a very difficult, but very rewarding task. If you have the commitment, drive, aptitude and physical fitness to do so, then you will be rewarded with a pair of wings an incredible range of benefits. Guaranteed employment, Prestige, free training and a high salary that starts from day one of your flight training are some of the biggest benefits of becoming a military pilot.

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ken johnson


Ken is a passionate aviator, a professional pilot and flight instructor. He has over 17 years of flight experience across hundreds of aircraft ranging from recreational, aerobatic, historic, commercial and military aircraft, training hundreds of students along the way. Find out more.

Ken has 124 posts and counting. See all posts by Ken

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