Laser Eye Surgery And The RAF

Laser eye surgery - RAFIf you are considering joining the RAF and currently wear glasses or contact lenses you are likely to have a number of questions relating to your application. The following lists the most commonly asked questions:

  • What are the visual requirements to join the RAF?
  • Are the visual standards different if I want to join as a pilot/air crew?
  • Can I have laser eye surgery and still join the RAF?
  • Can I have laser eye surgery if I want to become a pilot in the RAF?
  • If laser eye surgery is permitted which types can I have?

Let’s answer these questions one by one to make things easier:
What are the visual requirements to join the RAF?
The visual requirements are different depending on which branch of the RAF you want to join. It is probably obvious to state that pilots have the most stringent requirements and the tolerance of visual error is very small. Many of the other departments within the RAF have much more lenient standards, so whilst you may not be suitable for every career within the RAF it is unlikely that you won’t be accepted into certain departments.
Visual standards are assessed in terms of corrected (aided) and uncorrected (unaided) vision or put another way: with glasses/contact lenses on or without glasses/contact lenses. It is also worth mentioning here that no matter how well you can see with your glasses or contact lenses (aided vision) your prescription cannot be greater than -7 dioptres (short-sightedness) or +8 dioptres (long sightedness). If you have impaired colour vision it won’t stop you from joining the RAF but it may limit which career you can pursue.
If you want to read about the different medical conditions that preclude entry you can click here.
Are the visual standards different if I want to join as a pilot/air crew?
Yes, as mentioned above the visual requirements are more stringent for air crew departments. Depending on which post you want to take in the air crew, the standards are different. Pilots have the most difficult visual standards to meet whereas Sentry Mission Crew has the easiest.
Can I have laser eye surgery and still join the RAF?
Up until recently the RAF rejected all applicants who have had laser eye surgery. This however has recently changed and the RAF are now accepting applicants who have successfully had laser eye surgery. There are certain conditions however and they are follows:

  • You must wait least 12 months after surgery before you can apply.
  • Your prescription prior to surgery must not have been greater than +8.00 (long sightedness) to –7.00 (short sightedness).
  • Your prescription is stable. This is defined as there being no more than a 0.50 Dioptre change shown at two eye tests performed at least 6 months apart.
  • Each case will be assessed individually and the final decision as to whether you will be accepted following laser eye surgery is at the discretion of the Service appointed consultant ophthalmic surgeon.

Can I have laser eye surgery if I want to become a pilot in the RAF?
A history of laser eye surgery is a bar to entry for all aircrew and specialist branches. You cannot become a pilot in the RAF if you have laser eye surgery. This may well change in the future as laser eye surgery is currently accepted by the US Military, even for air crew.
Which types of laser eye surgery are permitted?
The following laser eye surgery procedures are permitted:

  • Lasik.
  • Lasek.
  • Intrastromal corneal rings (ICRs).

The following procedures are not accepted under any circumstances:

  • Radial keratotomy (RK).
  • Astigmatic keratotomy (AK).
  • All other intraocular surgical procedures such as Implantable contact lenses and refractive lens exchange.

Eye conditions that mean you will not be accepted in to the RAF:

  • Eye diseases such as Glaucoma, Cataract, Cataract surgery, Detached retina etc.
  • Visual field defects/blind spots in your vision.
  • Squint surgery within past 6 months.
  • Double vision.
  • Corneal grafts.

 

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