Chief of the Air Staff

Air Chief Marshal Sir Stephen Hillier KCB CBE DFC ADC MA RAF

Air Chief Marshal Sir Stephen Hillier KCB CBE DFC ADC MA RAF



Air Chief Marshal Sir Stephen Hillier is the Chief of the Air Staff, in command of the Royal Air Force, leading a Whole Force of some 35000 Regular and Reserve personnel, and 5000 Civil Servants, supported by thousands of contractors. He is personally accountable for the safe and effective operation of over 700 manned and unmanned aircraft and for meeting the airpower needs of Defence, which currently means thousands of people and every front-line force committed to operations world-wide. In addition to sustaining his people and this exceptionally high level of commitment, he is also responsible for delivering the significant growth in the RAF’s front-line capability announced in the 2015 Defence Review.

Prior to assuming his current appointment in July 2016, he was the Deputy Chief of Defence Staff (Military Capability) in the Ministry of Defence between 2012 and 2016, responsible for strategic force design, balance of investment and capability coherence across all areas of UK joint military capability. He has significant other experience in MOD capability planning, acquisition and programme delivery, and his most recent previous command appointment was as Air Officer Commanding 2 Group from 2008 to 2010, responsible for the RAF’s ISTAR, Air Transport, Air-Refuelling, Force Protection and Search and Rescue capabilities.

A Tornado GR4 pilot and flying instructor, he has over 3500 flying hours and extensive operational and command experience, ranging from squadron pilot to theatre commander of British Forces. He received his knighthood in 2014 and was appointed CBE in 2004. He was awarded the Distinguished Flying Cross for operations over Iraq in 1999, and the United States Bronze Star for Iraq operations in 2003.

He is married to Elaine, who has provided incredible support to him and to the wider RAF family for over 30 years, and has 2 grown-up children. Air Chief Marshal Hillier relaxes through running half-marathons, usually for Service charities, photography, hill-walking and reading.

Chief of the Air Staff

The Chief of the Air Staff (CAS) is the 4-star commander and professional head of the Royal Air Force (RAF). He is accountable to the Secretary of State (SoS) for its fighting effectiveness, efficiency and morale. Reporting through the Chief of the Defence Staff (CDS), CAS is responsible for the development, generation, integration and sustainment of the RAF in accordance with Defence policy and priorities to meet CDS’s strategic objectives.

As a Service Chief of Staff, he has the right of direct access to the Secretary of State and the Prime Minister. CAS chairs the Air Force Board Standing Committee, and is a member of the Defence Council, the Air Force Board, the Armed Forces Committee, the Chiefs’ of Staff Committee and the Senior Appointments Committee.


As the RAF progressively adopts responsibility for Air Capability planning and management from MOD Head Office, CAS will be responsible for commissioning RAF equipment, materiel and other support requirements. Current responsibilities for CAS include:

  • managing the AIR Top-Level Budget to deliver the RAF’s Command Plan, in accordance with defence priorities and standing military tasks within the delegated funding
  • ensuring the long-term health of the service, focusing on professional standards, ethos, welfare, career management and morale
  • ensuring that the whole force, including civil servants and contractors, plays its part in delivering the required operational effects as components of a single team
  • advising on the development and maintenance of the optimum coherent set of requirements that UK defence requires
  • providing CDS, MOD and the government with advice and recommendations on the operational employment of the RAF and contributing military experience and knowledge to assist in the development of defence policy