Defence Space Commander

Air Vice-Marshal Catherine Roberts, AO, CSC

Air Vice-Marshal Cath Roberts is the inaugural Defence Space Commander.

As a self-professed science fiction buff, AVM Roberts has always been fascinated by advanced technology and space and is passionate about bringing out the best in people. Becoming Australia’s first Space Commander is the realisation of a life-long dream, sparked by Commander Neil Armstrong landing on the moon.

AVM Roberts joined the Royal Australian Air Force in 1983 as a specialist in aerospace engineering at the Aircraft Research and Development Unit and has held more than 20 roles throughout her Air Force career, including Logistics Command (F/A-18/Macchi/Winjeel Engineering), No 77 Squadron (SQN) (Flight Line Maintenance), 481SQN (Senior Engineering Officer), and Lead-In Fighter Project (UK Resident Team).

An Officer of the Order of Australia for distinguished service in her roles as Head of Aerospace System Division and Head of Air Force Capability, AVM Roberts has dedicated her career to advancing air and space power. The citation states that through her exceptional professionalism, rare engineering prowess, and conspicuous devotion to the Australian Defence Force, she has delivered a positive capability legacy that will endure for decades.

AVM Roberts has been responsible for material acquisition and sustainment of the Classic Hornet, Hawk Lead-in Fighter, Super Hornet, Growler, F-35A, and most recently led the Loyal Wingman and M2 programs. In 2001, AVM Roberts undertook the inaugural Joint Command and Staff College, followed by a posting to the joint Airworthiness Coordination Agency where she received a Conspicuous Service Cross for her work in the introduction of major aviation capabilities, and establishing operational airworthiness regulations and frameworks.

AVM Roberts spent a significant part of her career posted in the UK. In 2005 she was appointed the Assistant Air Force Advisor in London, before commanding the Tactical Fighter Systems Program Office in 2007, and then the Training Aircraft Systems Program Office in 2009. She completed the Royal College of Defence Studies course in International Relations and Strategy in 2011.

In 2013 AVM Roberts was posted to the F-35A Joint Strike Fighter project, achieving Government program approval and ushering the first two Australian aircraft into service at the Luke Air Force Base in Arizona in December 2014.

In March 2016 AVM Roberts was appointed Head of Aerospace Systems Division, responsible for acquiring and sustaining all of Air Force’s fixed wing assets, before becoming the inaugural Head of Air Force Capability in 2018, responsible for imagining, designing and shaping the needs and future requirements of air and space power for the joint force.

AVM Roberts is a Fellow of Engineers Australia, Member of the Australian Institute of Company Directors and the Australian Space Agency Advisory Group Defence representative. She is the Chair of Air Force AFL and holds a Master of Management of Defence Studies and a Bachelor of Aerospace Engineering degree.

AVM Roberts has a passion for diversity and assisting women to enter aerospace and STEM fields through her work with Women in Aviation. She has been a mentor in Future Through Collaboration (Defence and Industry) and Superstars of STEM programs.

Outside Air Force, Cath was featured in the prestigious AFR 100 Women of Influence in 2013, was the recipient of the Aviation/Aerospace Australia Leadership Award in 2014 and the Women in Defence Award for Project Management in 2022. She is married to Stuart and they have two wonderful daughters. The family enjoy AFL, time on their property with their dogs (Charlie and Princess Leia), skiing (water and snow), dirt bike riding and fishing.