Chief of the RAAF Change of Command


The Royal Australian Air Force (RAAF) welcomed its new Chief, Air Marshal Mel Hupfeld, AO, DSC during a ceremonial parade and flypast in Canberra today.

Outgoing Chief of Air Force, Air Marshal Leo Davies, AO, CSC said it has been a privilege to lead the RAAF for the last four years. Air Marshal Hupfeld said it was both an incredible honour and a substantial responsibility to be taking over command of Air Force.

Air Marshal Hupfeld has served in the RAAF for almost 40 years. He was awarded the Distinguished Service Cross (DSC) in recognition of his performance as Commanding Officer of Number 75 Squadron on Operation FALCONER, and his Squadron was awarded a Meritorious Unit Citation.

Air Marshal Hupfeld has commanded Air Combat Group, posted as Air Commander Australia and Head Force Design. He received an appointment as Officer of the Order of Australia (AO) for distinguished service to the Australian Defence Force in senior command and staff appointments. Prior to being appointed Chief of Air Force, Air Marshal Hupfeld served as Chief Joint Operations.

July 3, 2019

Australian Department of Defence

In an article by Andrew McLaughlin published on July 4, 2019, the change of command was highlighted.

Air Marshal Mel Hupfeld officially took command of the RAAF from outgoing CAF, AIRMSHL Gavin ‘Leo’ Davies on July 3.

The change of command parade was held at ADF Headquarters at Russell Hill in Canberra, and featured flypasts from an EA-18G Growler, F-35A Lightning II, P-8A Poseidon, Falcon 7X, and a brace of PC-21s, all types which entered service during AIRMSHAL Davies’ four-year tenure as CAF.

In a moving farewell speech, AIRMSHL Davies thanked all of his commanders, peers, mentors and staff throughout his career for teaching him leadership, humility and accountability.

“I did not expect or set out to be CAF,” he told the assembled crowd.

“I thought Wing Commander would be awesome, and a tactical command a bit of a stretch. People got me here – our air men, our air women, public service officers and industry partners shape me, and they shape us every day.

“I learned that this generation – that’s you, folks – you’re really good. And I learned that this generation should be given just a little bit more space. I feel a genuine respect for your values no matter how you label them; for your future focus and your risk model, because it’s got agility built in; your collegiate approach where diversity is accepted without question; and for your growing appreciation of the part that Australia can play in our region and in the world.”

AIRMSHL Davies joined the RAAF in 1979 and served as a navigator on P-3B and P-3C Orions. He completed pilot training in 1987 and in 1988 was posted to Amberley to fly the F-111C.

He flew an exchange tour on USAF F-111Ds from 1990 to 1992, and served as Executive Officer (XO) of 1SQN from 1997, Commanding Officer (CO) of 1SQN from 2002, and as Officer Commanding (OC) 82WG from 2004.

In 2006 AIRMSHL Davies worked as Director Combat Capability at Air Force Headquarters, before deploying to the Middle East Area of Operations to work in the Combined Air Operations Centre (CAOC) there. In 2008 he returned to serve as Director General Capability Planning at Air Force Headquarters before being posted as Australia’s Air Attaché to Washington in 2010.

He returned from the US and assumed the role of Deputy Chief of Air Force in January 2012, before he was promoted to the role of CAF in July 2015.

AIRMSHL Hupfeld moves across to CAF from the position of Chief of Joint Operations (CJOPS), a position he has held since July 2018. Upon assuming the position of CAF, AIRMSHL Hupfeld paid tribute to the work of his predecessor, and warned of uncertain times ahead.

“I’d like to take this opportunity to publicly thank Leo for his exceptional stewardship and leadership over the last four years,” he said. “Where he has continued to deliver on the work, the vision and the intent that previous chiefs have brought forward for our Air Force, and he’s carried that forward in such a strong way; tirelessly, with energy, with discipline and with continued focus. And he’s taken our Air Force, well and truly, on an irreversible path towards a fifth generation Air Force.

“We’re in the midst of one of the most significant transitions in our history – in the history of our times. And we’re facing some quite turbulent and uncertain strategic circumstances. We need to ensure that we’re able to meet the challenges that will come. To do that, we’ll ensure that we continue to reform, we’ll still focus and aim for continuous improvement, and we must always aim to be as efficient as we can in order to ensure that we can deliver effectively within the boundaries of the resources that we have. We’ve got great kit, there’s no doubt and what a wonderful fly pass to see some of the most recent additions.

“But the heart of our capabilities still remains our people. That’s where we get our true capability advantage. We need the right people, doing the right things, professional skilled, passionate and trusted and I make a key point that we’re not alone in this endeavour.

“We need to be and are part of a joint integrated and multi domain force. An Air Force poses capabilities that are inherently joint. Whether we’re supporting, whether we’re being supported or whether when necessary we’re leading, we need to focus and look at our capabilities across the whole of our defence force.”

AIRMSHL Hupfeld joined the RAAF in 1980, graduating with a Bachelor of Science degree in 1983 from the RAAF Academy. During his flying career he has flown the Mirage III0 and the F/A-18A/B Hornet, and qualified as a Fighter Combat Instructor (FCI) in 1989.

AIRMSHL Hupfeld has held command positions including CO 75SQN including on Operations Bastille and Falconer in 2003, OC 81WG, Director of the Combined Air and Space Operations Centre in the Middle East Area of Operations, Commander Air Combat Group (ACG) and Air Commander Australia (ACAUST).

He has also served as Deputy Director and Director Aerospace Combat Development, Head Capability Systems Division, acting Chief Capability Development Group (CDG) and Head Force Design in Vice Chief of Defence Force (VCDF) Group.

In 2015 Air Marshal Hupfeld was appointed as an Officer of the Order of Australia (AO) for distinguished service to the Australian Defence Force in senior command and staff appointments.

 The RAAF also welcomed a new Deputy Chief of Air Force, with AVM Gavin Turnbull handing over to AVM Steve Meredith on July 1. AVM Meredith comes to DCAF from his previous role as the Head of Force Integration.

He joined the RAAF in 1986 and graduated from the School of Air Navigation in 1987. AVM Meredith was initially posted to 37SQN at RAAF Richmond on the C-130E Hercules, before converting to the F-111C and serving with 1SQN at RAAF Amberley.

He has held the positions of XO of 6SQN, Staff Officer to DCAF in Canberra, Deputy Director of Combat Enablers in CDG, XO of 82WG, CO of 6SQN, and OC 42WG.

He also served as Battle Director US Air Forces CENTCOM Combined Air Operations Centre (CAOC), Chief of Staff to the CDF, Deputy ACAUST, Commander Aerospace Operational Support Group (AOSG), and was the inaugural Commander of the Air Warfare Centre (AWC) before returning to CENTCOM as the Director of the CAOC.

In January 2016 AVM Meredith was appointed as a Member of the Order of Australia for his contribution to Air Force Capability sustainment.

AVM Turnbull retires from the RAAF after 35 year of service. During his career he has flown the UH-1H Iroquois, MB 326 Macchi and F/A-18A/B Hornet, and has held the positions of flight commander at 75SQN, CO of 77SQN, Director Airworthiness Coordination and Policy Agency, and Chief of Staff Australian National Headquarters in Baghdad.

He also served as OC 81WG, Director Military Strategic Commitments, Director of the CENTCOM CAOC, Director General Air Command Operations and Director General Air, and ACAUST. He was appointed as DCAF in May 2017.

In the 2016 Australia day honours AVM Turnbull was appointed a Member of the Order of Australia (AM) for exceptional service to the ADF in air combat capability development and support to military operations.

Succeeding AIRMSHL Hupfeld as CJOPS is LTGEN Greg Bilton who assumed the role on June 19 after a brief tour as Commander Forces Command.

LTGEN Bilton graduated from the Royal Military College in 1986 and joined the Royal Australian Artillery Regiment. He has held command appointments as Battery Commander 104th Field Battery, Commanding Officer 4th Field Regiment, Commander 7th Brigade, Deputy Commanding General United States Army Pacific and Deputy Chief of Joint Operations.

In addition, he has served in staff appointments in the Directorate of Officer Career Management, the Directorate of Force Structure, and as Director General Development and Plans. He has also been an instructor at the Australian Command and Staff College.

LTGEN Bilton was appointed a member of the Order of Australia in 2014 in recognition of his work as Director General Development and Plans at Army Headquarters and as Commander 7 Brigade.