Newcastle Polytechnic graduate privileged to take up top RAF post

Newcastle Polytechnic graduate Sue Gray has been appointed Air Vice Marshal, the most senior position held by a woman in the UK armed forces

Sue Gray, who has been appointed Air Vice Marshal
Sue Gray, who has been appointed Air Vice Marshal

A Newcastle graduate has spoken of her “immense privilege” after she was appointed Air Vice Marshal, the most senior position held by a regular serving woman in the UK armed forces.

Sue Gray, 50, is only the second female two-star officer after she was promoted to the rank and appointed director of combat air at Defence Equipment and Support, the Ministry of Defence said.

She follows in the footsteps of Air Vice-Marshal Elaine West, 51, who became director of projects and programme delivery at the Defence Infrastructure Organisation in August.

Air Vice-Marshal Gray joined the RAF in 1985 after gaining a degree in electronics from Newcastle Polytechnic. She was commissioned into the Engineer Branch and later deployed to Iraq in the First Gulf War in 1991, and on Operation Telic in 2003 when she was chief engineer for the Joint Helicopter Force.

She will now be responsible for the procurement and maintenance of all combat aircraft, training aircraft and remotely piloted air systems for the armed forces.

Air Vice-Marshal Gray said: “It is an immense privilege to have served my country for the last 28 years in the RAF and I am delighted to continue to do this in my new role as director of combat air. I look forward to the challenges of ensuring the UK stays at the cutting edge of combat air power, delivering world-class fast jet training aircraft and remotely piloted air systems to our armed forces.”

Defence minister Anna Soubry said: “I am delighted that the armed forces continue to demonstrate there are no glass ceilings for female personnel and that they recognise and promote the best people, irrespective of gender. The vast majority of roles in the armed forces are open to women and I hope they draw strength from these appointments and take full advantage of the opportunities available to them.”

Head of RAF personnel Air Marshal Baz North said: “Sue Gray’s promotion to the rank of Air Vice-Marshal is thoroughly well deserved; I wish her every success in her challenging role within Defence Equipment and Support.

“Her promotion, along with that of her colleague, Air Vice-Marshal Elaine West, announced earlier this year, is a tangible demonstration that the RAF provides rewarding careers for our diverse population of professional military personnel and that we realise the potential in our best and brightest people.”


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