Air Training Corps Wiki

The ACF Crest

The Army Cadet Force (ACF) is a British youth organisation that offers progressive training in a multitude of subjects from military training to adventurous training and first aid, at the same time as promoting achievement, discipline and good citizenship, to boys and girls aged 12 to 18 years and 9 months. Its affiliated organisation, the Combined Cadet Force provides similar training within various schools. It has connections to the training of the British Army.

Although sponsored by the Ministry of Defence and being very similar in structure and activity, the ACF is not a branch of the British Armed Forces, and as such cadets are not subject to military 'call up'. A proportion of cadets do, however, go on to enlist in the armed forces in later life, and many of the organisation's leaders - formally termed 'Cadet Force Adult Volunteers', or informally 'Adult Instructors' - come from a previous cadet service or military background.

The ACF can trace its beginnings back to 1859, when it was formed in order to prepare youths to enlist in the army in anticipation of an invasion by the French. It remained in existence after no invasion materialised, thanks in part to the influence of pioneer social worker Miss Octavia Hill, because of its positive benefits on youths. The ACF is a registered charity.


A young person can join the ACF at age 12, providing they are attending school in year 8. Training begins with a short Induction Interview with the Detachment Commander, followed by a tour and introduction by a Senior Cadet. The new recruit is assimilated into the training immediately, but it can take between 1 to 3 months to be issued a uniform and be fully inducted into the unit, usually by taking part in an Enrollment Ceremony.

Once the recruit's test, consisting of ranks and badges, country code and the history of the ACF, has been passed, new cadets are given their cap badge to put onto their beret.

Then cadets are taken through the basic and one-star syllabus of the Army Proficiency Certificate, including Drill, Shooting, Fieldcraft, Map and Compass, Military Knowledge, Expedition, First Aid, Skill at Arms, and Cadet in the Community.

The same subjects are assessed in more depth at two-star level, and mastered at three-star level.

At four-star level, the cadet attends a Senior Cadet Instructors' Cadre (SCIC). This week-long course qualifies cadets to teach two-star subjects. To complete the four-star syllabus, the cadet must also choose one subject in which to specialise and improve further. This might be Skill at Arms, First Aid, or Signalling, for example.

Apart from the star-level assessments, cadets can achieve more experience by attending other, optional training weekends such as radio user and crossed flags courses, going on adventure training trips to work towards the Duke of Edinburgh's Award, or trying cadet leadership courses and NCO cadres.

There are also lots of sports and events to get involved in. Cadets can compete against other counties in athletics, cross country running, football, first aid, swimming, tug of war, rugby, hockey, military skills, target shooting and many more. The ACF also competes on a national level.

By enrolling in the Duke of Edinburgh's Award scheme at age 14 and applying for the BTEC First Diploma in Public Services at age 16 (and concurrently training at 3 Star level), it is easy to achieve both of these recognised qualifications for less cost than doing the same elsewhere.


In Fieldcraft lessons, cadets learn infantry skills such as patrolling, section, battle drills, ambush drills, harbour drills, and how to survive in the field. Field exercises take place about once every few months, and at annual camp.

Out on exercise, cadets wear MTP (multi terrain pattern) clothing, dulled boots, camo cream to eliminate the face's natural shine, a field hat and foliage to break up the shape of the head and shoulders, webbing to carry rifle magazines and emergency rations, and a bergen to carry a sleeping bag and basha (improvised shelter) building materials. Cadets are issued with 24-hour ration packs and fuel cookers as used by the infantry.

As part of a platoon, cadets set up harbour areas (operations bases), post sentries, and send out patrols to carry out reconnaissance, lay ambushes, and assault enemy positions. Cadets become familiar with a vast range of hand signals for silent communication, and various patrol formations for crossing different types of terrain, such as the arrowhead formation (pictured right) for crossing open country. Patrols stay in touch with military radio sets, operated by cadets who have passed courses in signalling.

Skill at Arms[]

New recruits are taught how to safely handle, clean, operate and fire the BSA Cadet Scorpion Air Rifle. At one-star, cadets are trained on The L98A2 Cadet General Purpose 5.56 mm Rifle (GP). The GP is a single shot adaptation of the British Army's SA80 Individual Weapon, designed specifically for the cadet forces (Though senior cadets on some occasions do use the SA80). Having mastered the GP and passed the one-star Skill at Arms test, cadets can fire it (using blank rounds) in field exercises as part of a section, taking part in ambushes and assaults on enemy forces. They can also fire live rounds on a range, usually at annual camps, gaining marksman badges if they are good enough. To pass one-star skill at arms, cadets must show they can handle the weapon safely, perform stoppage drills (actions that should be performed in the case of a stoppage) and field strip the weapon for daily cleaning.

Senior cadets, as part of three-star Skill at Arms, used to be introduced to the L86A1 Light Support Weapon, which, unlike the GP, has automatic capabilities. With its longer barrel and bipod, the LSW has a greater range and muzzle velocity, and with its SUSAT (Sight Unit Small Arms Trilux - the optical sight on top of the weapon), it also allows for greater accuracy. The LSW is also used by the infantry, and having mastered this more difficult weapon, cadets can mimic the tasks performed by regular army LSW gunners, using its higher rate of fire to provide fire support during section attacks. However, the LSW is slowly being phased out of service due to increase in military demand.

There is also a deactivated version, Cadet L103A1 DP (Drill Purpose). The LSW is no longer in use by the ACF.

The L98A1 Cadet GP Rifle was used before Christmas 2009, however it has been replaced by the L98A2.

First Aid[]

Main article: First Aid

Throughout their time in the Army Cadet Force, cadets learn first aid.

Early on, recruits learn how to handle incidents involving a casualty and how to get help. They then pick up the same basic skills taught to regular soldiers, including how to check a casualty's airways, breathing and circulation, perform CPR, place a casualty in the recovery position, and deal with minor and major bleeding.

In two-star first aid, cadets learn how to recognise and treat a much wider variety of injuries and conditions, including burns, concussion and bone fractures, and shock, diabetes and epilepsy. The cadet two-star first aid assessment is equivalent to a St. John's Ambulance youth first aid qualification.

Progressing yet further, cadets can complete adult first aid qualifications, and opportunities to compete regionally and nationally in first aid competitions are open to talented cadets.

Map and Compass[]

Another useful skill cadets learn is how to navigate using a map and compass. Cadets gain the same skills taught to soldiers so that they can plan operations and navigate any terrain. First, cadets learn to care for and use Ordnance Survey maps (and the MOD's maps) of United Kingdom Training Areas), plot and find six-figure grid references, calculate distances between points, and to recognise various conventional signs.

The two-star map and compass course then introduces cadets to the Silva (4/6400) and Suunto (M-5N) lightweight protractor compass. Cadets learn to use and plot grid and magnetic bearings in both mils and degrees, to understand the three different types of north, to account for deviation of the grid-magnetic angle, and to understand contour lines and more advanced conventional signs.

With this knowledge cadets can draw up route cards to undertake night navigation exercises or orienteering competitions.


A time-honoured tradition of the military, cadets are taught drill, which is a method of moving as an individual or as a body in a smart and soldier-like manner. It is also used to foster discipline, pride and teamwork.

Having learnt the positions of attention, saluting and turns at the halt, recruits progress onto marching in quicktime. Many drill movements can be executed while standing still and while marching, and also while holding a rifle.

Each year, drill is used for Remembrance Day parades, and at annual camps large parades take place, with a colour party, in which cadets with rifles march with and guard the standard-bearer.

Closely linked with a cadet's drill is his or her turnout - each cadet is issued with a uniform by the Ministry of Defence and shown how to care for it and appear smart at all times, with ironed-in creases and polished boots.


Cadets are first taught to fire a 0.22 rifle on a 25 m range. Cadets are taught the principles of marksmanship - natural pointing, position and hold, sight alignment and shot release and follow through. These also apply to the GP Rifle, which is fired typically on 100 m, 200 m and 300 m ranges during annual camps or weekends away. Cadets are also allowed to fire the Light Support Weapon (LSW) at the same ranges. The LSW is an automatic weapon with a SUSAT (Sight Unit Small Arms Trilux) scope. Although due to the nature of both the GP and LSW as combat weaponry emphasise is not placed on marksmanship rather just the chance for hands on experience.

Cadets who perform exceptionally in rifle shootings can achieve a range of proficiency badges and go on to earn county colours for representing the county at CADSAAM, the Cadet Annual Skill At Arms Meeting shooting competition. In the competition teams of cadets fire at falling plate targets before getting up and running 100 m towards the target and firing again, then repeating the process, all against the clock.

Cadets also have the opportunity to fire the L81 A2 Cadet Target Rifle in competition at Brigade (CTRM), National (Interservices Cadet Rifle Meeting) and International (Dominion of Canada Rifle Association Matches) level. they shoot a 7.62 rifle and are a direct descendent of the British Army Sniper rifle.

Rank System[]

As well as learning new skills by working through the APC Syllabus, experienced cadets can be awarded a rank. As the Army allows its soldiers to take on responsibility and leadership as non-commissioned officers (NCOs), so too does the Army Cadet Force give a greater role to some cadets.

The first rank a new cadet NCO will be given is that of a Lance Corporal(Or in Royal Artillery cadet units "Lance Bombardier") . To signify this a single chevron is worn on the brassard or rank slide. Lance Corporals are a part of the framework of their detachments. They assist with lessons, have authority over cadets and work with other cadet NCOs and Adult Instructors. In field exercises Lance Corporals normally have the position of second-in-command (2ic) of a section.

Above the Lance Corporals are the Corporals, who teach lessons (provided they are qualified to do so i.e. passed Junior Cadet Instructors Cadre at 3 Star), manage the Lance Corporals and act as the section commanders out in the field. Corporals are typically two-star qualified or above.

Above the Corporals are the Sergeants and Staff Sergeants or Colour Sergeants, and above these Warrant Officers Class 2 and 1, usually holding the appointments of Company Sergeant Major (CSM) and Regimental Sergeant Major (RSM) respectively.

Also in many counties there is the opportunity for promotion to Under Officer. Although this is not an official rank, it is a chance for senior cadets to gain experience as an officer.

  • Lance Corporal
  • Corporal,
  • Sergeant,
  • Staff Sergeant, or Colour Sergeants (The equivalent rank in the Infantry)
  • Company Sergeant Major,
  • Regimental Sergeant Major,

Rank insignia for cadets are usually still the large chevrons (sewn on to the brassard, part of cadet uniform) that have not been used with the regular army for several years. However, use of rank slides is becoming increasingly common, generally among CCF units, but the rank slide must be marked with the letters ACF or CCF (whichever the cadet belongs to) at the bottom to distinguish from regular army ranks. Almost all ACF units still issue the outdated sew-on chevrons to cadets, with rank slides being reserved for adult instructors.

Note that the Household Cavalry have a different rank system, more on here.

Adult Leaders[]

Adults join the ACF to instruct by two different routes- as NCOs or as Officers. Prospective NCOs begin as Probationary Instructors (PIs) before passing a medical, an enhanced disclosure and an Initial Training Course (ITC), at which point they attain the rank of Sergeant (SI) and can potentially continue on as they gain experience to become a Staff or colour Sergeant(SSI),Sergeant Major instructor (SMI)or Regimental Sergeant Major Instructor (RSMI) there are no Warrant Officers in the cadet forces. The Adult Instructors are the main people responsible for delivering the correct training to the correct standards, to the cadet.

Another route is to begin as an Under Officer (UO) and pass the aforementioned as well as an additional leadership course and progress to the rank of Second Lieutenant(2Lt) and so on through the officer ranks. All potential Officers must serve a minimum of 1 year as a Sergeant Instructor(SI). On appointment to Second Lieutenant(2Lt) the person becomes a commissioned officer in the Land Forces.


Most British counties have centralised cadet forces that make up the ACF as a national whole. The counties are generally split into companies, each of which includes several 'detachments', the name given to a unit of cadets that parade in a particular town or village. Detachments are usually affiliated with a certain Regiment or Corps within the British Army, and wear their insignia including cap badge, colour of beret and stable belt subject to individual County/Area regulations.

On 1 April 2003, there were 7,640 officers and instructors and 43,550 cadets in the Army Cadet Force.

See Also[]