Elaine West has become the first woman to be promoted to Air Vice-Marshal within the RAF.

Air Vice-Marshal West will take up the role of Director of Projects and Programme Delivery at the Defence Infrastructure Organisation. She will lead the way in programming and delivering multi-million-pound infrastructure projects to support military training, improve defence capability and oversee the draw down of Army units from Germany.

Prior to Air Vice-Marshal West’s promotion, the highest rank held by a regular serving female officer in the modern day RAF was Air Commodore. The highest ranking female officer in the Navy has been Commodore and the highest rank achieved by a woman in the Army has been Brigadier.

Air Vice-Marshal West said:

It is with enormous pride that I take up my new appointment. I am privileged to have served in the RAF and to have enjoyed so many challenging roles over the years.

To now be the first female military two-star is a truly unexpected bonus. I know so many inspirational women across all 3 Services who continue to make a substantial contribution to operations and our Armed Forces more widely.

This is a terrific opportunity and one that I’m looking forward to immensely.

Defence Secretary Philip Hammond said:

We need the best and the brightest talent in senior positions as we transform Defence over the next few years as we build Future Force 2020, and that means selecting people from across Defence, irrespective of gender.

I am pleased that we are demonstrating in Defence that there are no ‘glass ceilings’ for female officers who have the necessary abilities to rise to the senior ranks.

Chief of the Air Staff, Air Chief Marshal Sir Andrew Pulford, said:

Elaine West’s promotion to the rank of Air Vice-Marshal is thoroughly well-deserved and I wish her every success in her challenging role within the Defence Infrastructure Organisation.

The Royal Air Force is proud of its record as an equal opportunities employer – we were recognised most recently by the Times as one of the UK’s top 50 female employers – and it is fantastic to see more female officers reaching top positions within the Service.

The vast majority of roles in the Armed Forces are open to women and I would encourage everyone, regardless of gender, to take full advantage of the opportunities available to them within the military.

Air Vice-Marshal West joined the RAF in late 1978 and through her commitment and leadership has climbed through the ranks over her 34-year career. She has served her country in bases across the world and her appointment will now help to inspire generations of women to continue aiming high to reach the top ranks within the military.

The Armed Forces are committed to increasing the number of female personnel and to promoting diversity at all levels. The RAF has consistently received extensive recognition for its work on gender equality and promoting career opportunities for women.

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