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RAAF revolution as head of space appointed

written by Adam Thorn | May 10, 2021
RAAF space Air Vice-Marshall Catherine Roberts
Air Vice-Marshall Catherine Roberts will take up the new role from January 2022.

The RAAF has offered a glimpse into its future after announcing the appointment of its inaugural Head of the Space Division.

Air Vice-Marshall Catherine Roberts will take up the new role from January 2022 when she steps down from her position as Head of Air Force Capability.

The announcement comes weeks after Air Marshal Mel Hupfeld confirmed plans were underway for a new military “space command” to be integrated within the RAAF.

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AVM Roberts is currently responsible for conceptualising and shaping the future requirements for the Air Force. Her 30-year career has included stints as Head Aerospace Systems Division – responsible for acquiring and sustaining fixed-wing assets – and a period overseeing the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter program.

AVM Roberts graduated from No. 28 Course Engineering Cadet Squadron in 1986, and completed her first posting as a maintenance engineering officer supporting flight test on CT4, PC-9, DC-3, Iroquois, Squirrel, Blackhawks, Mirage, Macchi, and F-111s at the Aircraft Research and Development unit.

The promotion provides the first concrete moves towards RAAF expansion into space.

AIRMSHL Hupfeld is currently overseeing a space domain review which includes plans for a space command that, unlike the US, will be a collaboration between Army, Navy and RAAF rather than an entirely separate entity.

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“I think we’re probably about three or four years behind where I would rather be at the moment, but we’re catching up quickly,” AIRMSHL Hupfeld told the ABC.

“Space is a war-fighting domain but we’re not going to militarise space.”

The announcement comes as RAAF uses its centenary year to drive through reforms, which began with the organisation revealing it will replace the term ‘airmen’ with ‘aviators’.

“Of all the work that has been done in developing our Air Force culture, the most challenging dilemma has been fully explaining who we are,” AIRMSHL Hupfeld said.

“We understand well enough what we are and what we do – but have never quite managed to successfully articulate who we are. We are all aviators.

“As an Air Force, we are born of the air and space. It is our home, and the place from which we serve our nation. Our trade is aviation.

“In everything that we do, we are aviators first and foremost. All of us, by virtue of what we do and what we believe. It is what binds us together.”

RAAF celebrated its 100th anniversary on 31 March with the most ambitious Canberra flypast attempted in years, featured 60 warbirds and modern aircraft such as the Spitfire, Caribou, C-130J and F-18 Hornet.

Australian Aviation marked the occasion by opening our archive to show you our best photos of RAAF aircraft during the organisation’s 100-year history.

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