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Air Marshal Mel Hupfeld bids farewell to RAAF

written by Adam Thorn | July 1, 2022

Outgoing Chief of Air Force, Air Marshal Mel Hupfeld, accepts a general salute at a ceremony marking the transfer of command of RAAF. (FSGT Kev Berriman)

Air Marshal Mel Hupfeld has now transferred command of the RAAF to his replacement, Air Marshal Robert Chipman, at a ceremony in Canberra.

The event, at Air Force Headquarters on Friday, included a parade and flypast from three F/A-18F Super Hornets.

“When I commenced my role as Chief of Air Force, we were in a period of great capability transition — we were bringing on some of the very first F-35A Lightning II jets and EA-18G Growler and P-8A Poseidon aircraft,” AIRMSHL Hupfeld said.

“I am most proud of our dedicated and skilled workforce who are trusted to deliver air and space power for the Joint Force, wherever it’s needed. Our people are, and continue to be, at the heart of our capability.


He added leading the RAAF during its centenary commemorations was the peak of his career.

“We were able to honour the service and sacrifice of more than 350,000 past and present members, and inspire future aviators. I have no doubt that Air Marshal Chipman will continue to shape and lead our capable and modern Air Force.”

Air Marshal Hupfeld appeared on the Australian Aviation Podcast in 2020, which you can listen to above. He said the RAAF was “far more professional” now than when he joined the organisation four decades ago.

“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.”

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

Australian Aviation reported earlier this week how Robert Chipman – a former Hornet fighter jet pilot and instructor – would be promoted from Air Vice-Marshal to Air Marshall and become the new Chief of Air Force.

Chipman joined the RAAF in 1989 and has enjoyed an extraordinary career that saw him initially posted to No 25 and then No 76 squadron flying the Macchi MB326H, a light military jet trainer. He then completed a F/A-18 Hornet Operational Conversion in 1995.

After a tour as a Hornet instructor at No 2 Operational Conversion Unit, he returned to No 75 SQN as its fighter combat instructor and flight commander.

Other roles have included helping to oversee the Hornet Upgrade Program in 2004, returning to be commander of No 75 Squadron and assuming command of No 81 Wing. He’s currently the head of military strategic commitments at the RAAF.

On Friday, AIRMSHL Chipman said it was an “honour” to take the new role.

“I extend my gratitude to Air Marshal Hupfeld who has instilled an Air Force culture that prioritises diversity, inclusion, and professional mastery of air and space power in support of the Joint Force,” he said. “I am enthusiastic for my tenure and the journey this appointment will bring.”

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