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‘Top Gun’ RAAF chief takes senior ADF role

written by Staff reporter | April 9, 2024

Air Marshal Robert Chipman was appointed Chief of the Air Force in 2022. (Image: Defence)

The current Chief of the Air Force has been promoted to take the second highest-ranking position in the Australian military.

Air Marshal Robert Chipman – a former Hornet fighter jet pilot and instructor – will now become Vice Chief of the ADF, to be replaced in his current role by Air Vice-Marshal Stephen Chappell.

“I’d like to congratulate all personnel for accepting these appointments, and leading the Australian Defence Force with the values and tenets the Australian public expect of our military leaders,” Prime Minister Anthony Albanese said.

“I look forward to working with you to plan and deliver a more integrated and focused Defence Force.”

Chipman joined the RAAF in 1989 and has enjoyed an extraordinary career that saw him command No 75 Squadron from 2006–2009 and No 81 Wing from 2013–2014.


In 2008, No 75 Squadron was awarded the Duke of Gloucester Cup for the most proficient flying squadron and the Kittyhawk Trophy in 2009 for the most proficient fighter squadron.

He took the RAAF’s top job in 2022.

Incoming chief Air Vice-Marshal Stephen Chappell, meanwhile, is currently the ADF’s Head of Military Strategic Commitments.

The role sees him “responsible for the strategic level management and situational awareness of current and potential Australian Defence Force commitments”.

The changes are subject to the Governor-General’s consideration and approval, and are expected to take effect in July.

The top-level reshuffle comes after Australian Aviation reported last month that the RAAF unveiled a Christopher Nolan-esque TV advert.

It came amid recent reports the force is struggling to recruit the next generation of fighter pilots and support personnel.

The “Up There” campaign includes footage shot with high-definition gimbal cameras and a cinematic score composed by multi-award-winning musician Lance Gurisik.

It also features dramatic scenes depicting a Kabul-style evacuation and a team coordinating a mission aboard airspace battle management aircraft, the Wedgetail.

Speaking at a press conference in Perth in March, Matt Keogh, Minister for Defence Personnel and Veterans’ Affairs, said the campaign aims to highlight not only piloting roles but also technical fields such as mechanics, electronic and cyber warfare, and space.

“Our Air Force is quite successful in its recruitment endeavours,” he said. “But the areas we really need to focus on around those engineering roles, those intelligence, cyber warfare, electronic warfare roles, and also this new space domain that is so critical now to the work that we do. They’re the areas we’re focused on growing.

“What we see with the focus on technological roles in our Defence Force is it reflects what we’re seeing across broader society. We need people that have got good STEM skills to come into our Defence Force.”

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