Chief of Air Force says RAAF now ‘far more professional’

written by Adam Thorn | July 31, 2020
F-35As A35-015 and A35-016 after arriving at Williamtown on September 10. (Defence)
F-35As A35-015 and A35-016 after arriving at Williamtown on September 10. (Defence)

The Chief of Air Force has said the RAAF is “far more professional” now than when he first joined the organisation four decades ago.

Speaking exclusively to host Phil Tarrant on the Australian Aviation Podcast, Air Marshal Mel Hupfeld said the difference in culture is “almost night and day”.

“I’d compare it to the discussions I would have with World War II veterans when I was a young pilot,” said AIRMSHL Hupfeld. “They’d all say, ‘My god. Your Air Forces, you’re far more professional than we ever were.’

“I look back to when I first started flying airplanes in the Air Force compared to what we do now, and I’d say the same thing.”

AIRMSHL Hupfeld was giving one of his first public interviews since the government announced it was committing $270 billion to defence spending over the next 10 years – some $75 million more previously planned.

The 2020 Force Structure Plan suggested Australia was seeking to take a more pro-active approach to defence in the Indo-Pacific region, with Scott Morrison declaring that a post-COVID-19 world could be “poorer, more dangerous and more disorderly”.

It was followed by the 2020 Defence Strategic Update that advocated a more holistic approach to combating tension – including a ‘shape, deter and respond’ ethos that advocated the military working closely with policy makers and diplomats to ‘shape’ the world to avoid military intervention.

“There’s a lot more to do for reform in how we do all of our business,” said AIRMSHL Hupfeld. “One of the leadership outcomes here I’d like to see during my tenure is that we do recognise and take care of our people.

“We demand a lot of them, I also expect a lot of them, but I need to make sure I give them the opportunities and take care of them to be able to provide the outcomes that I seek.”

AIRMSHL Hupfeld was appointed to the position last year and has been tasked with reinventing the RAAF before his tenure ends in two years’ time.

He first joined the Royal Australian Air Force as an RAAF Academy Cadet in January 1980, and his distinguished career included being awarded a Distinguished Service Cross in recognition of his performance as Commanding Officer during the Iraq War.

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