Sue Gray
Gray in 2019
Birth nameSusan Catherine Jessop
Born (1963-10-21) 21 October 1963 (age 57)
AllegianceUnited Kingdom
Service/branchRoyal Air Force
Years of service1985–present
RankAir Marshal
Commands heldNo. 38 Group (2016–18)
Battles/warsGulf War
Iraq War
AwardsCompanion of the Order of the Bath
Officer of the Order of the British Empire

Air Marshal Susan Catherine Gray, CB, OBE, FREng (née Jessop; born 21 October 1963) is a British engineer and senior Royal Air Force officer. Since 2019, she has been Director-General of the Defence Safety Authority. She served as Director of Combat Air at Defence Equipment and Support in the Ministry of Defence (2014–16), and as Air Officer Commanding No. 38 Group (2016–18). She is the most senior female officer ever to serve in the British Armed Forces.

Early life and education

Gray was born on 21 October 1963. She studied electronics at Newcastle Polytechnic (now the Northumbria University), graduating with a Bachelor of Science degree.[1][2]

Military career

Gray joined the Engineer Branch of the Women's Royal Air Force (WRAF) in 1985.[1] She was promoted to flying officer on 18 February 1986,[3] and to flight lieutenant on 18 February 1989.[4] In 1991, she was deployed with the Support Helicopter Force to Iraq as part of the Gulf War.[1][5] On 15 June 1992, she moved from a Short Service Commission to a Permanent Commission, and therefore extended her service time to retirement age.[6]

In 1994, the Women's Royal Air Force merged into the previously all-male Royal Air Force (RAF). Since then, Gray has served in the RAF. On 1 July 1994, as part of the half-yearly promotions, she was promoted to squadron leader.[7] On 1 January 2001, as part of the half-yearly promotions, she was promoted to wing commander.[8] In 2003, she was once more deployed to Iraq, this time as part of Operation Telic (the Iraq War) and served as Chief Engineer for the Joint Helicopter Force.[5]

Air officer

Gray was appointed an Officer of the Order of the British Empire in the 2005 New Year Honours and,[9] on 1 January as part of the half-yearly promotions, she was promoted to air commodore.[10]

On 29 January 2014, Gray was promoted to air vice-marshal and appointed Director of Combat Air at Defence Equipment and Support in the Ministry of Defence.[11] In that role she was "responsible for the procurement and maintenance of all combat aircraft, training aircraft and remotely-piloted air systems for the armed forces".[5] She is the second female officer to be promoted to non-honorary two-star rank (major general in the British Army, rear admiral in the Royal Navy or air vice marshal in the Royal Air Force) in the British Armed Forces since the Second World War; the first was Elaine West who had been promoted to air vice-marshal in August 2013.[1] In February 2016, it was announced that she would be the next Air Officer Commanding No. 38 Group. She took up the appointment on 16 June 2016 in succession to Tim Bishop.[12] Gray was appointed a Companion of the Order of the Bath in the 2017 New Year Honours,[13] and was elected a Fellow of the Royal Academy of Engineering.[14] She handed over command of No. 38 Group to Air Commodore Simon Ellard in December 2018.[15]

On 20 February 2019, it was announced that Gray had been promoted to air marshal, and thus becomes Britain's first ever female three-star officer: she thereby became the most senior female officer in the British Armed Forces.[16] Since March 2019, she has been the Director General of the Defence Safety Authority.[17]

Gray is a recipient of three campaign medals; the General Service Medal, the Gulf Medal, and the Iraq Medal. She is also a recipient of the Queen Elizabeth II Golden Jubilee Medal and the Queen Elizabeth II Diamond Jubilee Medal.[18] With the change in rules in 2016 making all officer eligible, she was awarded the Royal Air Force Long Service and Good Conduct Medal in recognition of 15 years service.

References

  1. ^ a b c d "RAF appoints 2nd 2-star female officer". Defence Viewpoints. UK Defence Forum. Retrieved 29 April 2016.
  2. ^ "Air Vice-Marshal promotion for Newcastle graduate". ITV News. 30 December 2013. Retrieved 30 April 2016.
  3. ^ "No. 50461". The London Gazette (Supplement). 17 March 1986. p. 3843.
  4. ^ "No. 51680". The London Gazette (Supplement). 20 March 1989. p. 3494.
  5. ^ a b c "Second female Air-Vice Marshal". gov.uk. Ministry of Defence. 30 December 2013. Retrieved 29 April 2016.
  6. ^ "No. 53054". The London Gazette (Supplement). 21 September 1992. p. 15846.
  7. ^ "No. 53724". The London Gazette (Supplement). 4 July 1994. pp. 9611–9612.
  8. ^ "No. 56078". The London Gazette (Supplement). 2 January 2001. pp. 14622–14623.
  9. ^ "No. 57509". The London Gazette (Supplement). 31 December 2004. p. 6.
  10. ^ "No. 57521". The London Gazette (Supplement). 4 January 2005. p. 16360.
  11. ^ "No. 60771". The London Gazette (Supplement). 4 February 2014. p. 2237.
  12. ^ "Senior Appointments". raf.mod.uk. Royal Air Force. 8 February 2016. Retrieved 29 April 2016.
  13. ^ "No. 61803". The London Gazette (Supplement). 31 December 2016. p. N2.
  14. ^ "50 engineering leaders become Fellows of the Royal Academy of Engineering". Retrieved 21 September 2018.
  15. ^ "Senior Appointments". raf.mod.uk. Royal Air Force. 5 December 2018. Retrieved 5 December 2018.
  16. ^ "Air Vice Marshal Sue Gray appointed Director General of the Defence Safety Authority". RAF News. Royal Air Force. 20 February 2019. Retrieved 16 March 2019.
  17. ^ Nicholls, Dominic (20 February 2019). "RAF Engineer becomes most senior woman to have ever served in Britain's armed forces". The Telegraph. Retrieved 20 February 2019.
  18. ^ "Air Vice Marshal Sue Gray visiting Air Cdre Dame Felicity Hill to present her with flowers on her 100th birthday". raf.mod.uk. Royal Air Force. 15 December 2015. Retrieved 30 April 2016.
Military offices
Preceded by
Tim Bishop
Air Officer Commanding No. 38 Group
2016–2018
Succeeded by
Simon Ellard
Preceded by
Richard Felton
Director-General Defence Safety Authority
2019–present
Incumbent