RAF recruits shouldn't worry about passing fitness tests if they are tech fit, says military chief

·2-min read

Anyone thinking about a career in the Royal Air Force need no longer worry too much about passing a fitness test, provided they know how to work-out on a keyboard.

The head of the RAF signalled recruiting people with skills in data and digital technology - even if they cannot do a set number of timed push-ups and pre-dawn runs - is increasingly important in a world where having a technological edge is vital for militaries to succeed.

Individuals with autism and other forms of neurodiversity should also consider a career in the RAF, Air Chief Marshal Sir Mike Wigston said.

Speaking at the RAF's annual air and space power conference, he stressed the need to hire from the widest pool of talent as the focus of his service expands from flying fast jets, transport planes and helicopters to also fighting remotely, with machines, codes and artificial intelligence.

Many of the people the air force is recruiting today "will still be in service in 2040 so that's the force we need to be recruiting to", he told the conference of fellow air chiefs and their staff, who have travelled to London from around the world.

"It will be about data and digital and… we probably won't need people that must pass a physical fitness test," he said.

"We can have different standards. We can look at different parts of society that we haven't recruited from traditionally. But that is the nature of what a war fighter in the 2040s could be, so thinking, as part of agile thinking about the technology of 2040, thinking through the demographics of the work force that is going to be operating that technology and then you have to start recruiting them today."

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The RAF, Army and Royal Navy have basic fitness tests most recruits are required to pass. These standards will still be in place for roles that might see an aviator in a combat zone, but the RAF chief indicated it does not make sense to rule out applicants over their fitness if they are more likely to spend their time behind a computer somewhere safe.

"I think as militaries we can have a conversation, a healthy conversation, about different physical standards, different neurodiversity standards and we should be ready for those conversations," Air Chief Marshal Wigston said, speaking to journalists after his speech.

"I think it's an important part of being forces that are fit for the future that are ready for the future, taking advantage of the widest pool of talent in our respective national work forces."

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