Top rank for RAF woman: Officer made Air Vice-Marshal and will be responsible for buying and maintaining all fighters, drones and other aircraft.
A woman who joined the RAF after finishing university has been promoted to the highest military rank to be held by a female in Britain.
Sue Gray, 50, has been made an Air Vice-Marshal – equivalent in seniority to a Major General in the Army or a Rear Admiral in the Royal Navy.
She is only the second female two-star officer in the UK’s Armed Forces.
She has been appointed a director at the Defence Equipment and Support and will be responsible for buying and maintaining all fighter jets, training aircraft and drones.
Air Vice-Marshal Gray 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.
She joined the RAF in 1985 after gaining a degree in electronics from Newcastle Upon Tyne Polytechnic.
Commissioned as an engineer, she has climbed through the ranks during a 28-year career. She has twice served on the frontline in Iraq, in the First Gulf War in 1991 and again in 2003 as chief engineer for the Joint Helicopter Force.
She said: ‘It is an immense privilege to have served my country 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.’
Air Marshal Baz North, head of RAF personnel, 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.
‘Her promotion 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.’
Women make up about 10 per cent of Armed Forces personnel, or 14 per cent of the RAF, 9 per cent of the Royal Navy and 8 per cent of the Army.