Outgoing CAF - Air Marshal Mel Hupfeld, AO, DSC

1 July 2022


Dhawura nguna, dhawura Ngunnawal.

Yunggu nala wiri, duni munyin.

Ngunnawal wari, dhawura wari.

(This is Ngunnawal country, today we meet on Ngunnawal country.)

I acknowledge the traditional custodians of this land and pay my respect to Elders past present and emerging. My thanks to Uncle Cheyne for the inspiring and meaningful Welcome to Country.

Naragana – wali-manyin  Galamban(y)   yindju-mara-djin-yin.

(We are coming together respectfully.)

Yuwal-wari-ngu    bidja-djima-wari-ngu.  Yara-bing-ga  yanbi.  

Bidja-djima-ngu nguna-lun-dja.   gadagang-ning-ga.

(I continue in the footsteps of those who came before us. In time, I will pass our Air Force to the next Chief and those who will follow us.)

Distinguished guests, ladies and gentleman.

Together with my wife Lou, we wish you all a very sincere, but chilly welcome to this hand-over parade. We are both humbled and honoured that you would all join us for this important ceremony.

For Lou and I, we have had a rather unusual tenure in this role as Chief of Air Force, with, markedly, the challenge of CoVID and a significantly evolving strategic environment. We are extremely proud of how our Air Force has responded and delivered during this dynamic period, and feel that with these unexpected challenges we have experienced a unique, but rewarding tenure that we have truly enjoyed. These challenges didn’t define our resolve, and our achievements are due to your collective resilience, commitment and passion to our purpose in Defence of this Nation.

To my One Defence colleagues, now with continuity of leadership through CDF and the Purple 9, and Public Service leadership through the Secretary and my Band 3 colleagues, I thank you all for the frank contest of ideas, support for our mission and committed professionalism. I believe this is the strongest team I have had the privilege to serve with in my time in senior Defence appointments.

To my Service Chief colleagues we have worked hard to build an integrated force, and together I believe we are handing over three Services that are in good shape and on the right path to achieving that objective. Our successors will bring new vision, energy and commitment. To Mike and Rick, thank you for your friendship and trust.

To our International partners, with AVM Andrew Clarke, my friend and counterpart from New Zealand here today and others represented by our Defence Attaches – you are essential to how we achieve our engagement, relevance and strategic outcomes.

I also acknowledge our other Government agency partners and the importance of our engagement for the work that we need to do together.

To our Defence Industry representatives, I emphasise our essential reliance on a strong partnership and need for your contribution to our key capabilities.

To Air Marshal Rob Chipman and Alyce, Lou and I offer our sincere congratulations, and best wishes to you both as you step into the role of Chief of Air Force. We have the greatest confidence in your ability and passion for the role, your belief in our Air Force, and your depth of experience to bring our key capabilities and people forward as part of an integrated Force.

To WOFF-AF Fee Grasby and my Air Force Executive and leadership team, and to our Air Force, we have achieved much in the last three years. We have carried the ball forward from the strong position we received it three years ago.

Lou and I were privileged to be in this role when we all celebrated the Centenary of our Air Force – a poignant and proud moment within my Service career and in my role as Chief of Force. Marking that milestone certainly drove home how far our Air Force has come, and the sacrifices that have been made.

I have witnessed an increase of female representation in our Air Force, now above our target of 25%, and continuing to increase, and Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander representation at 2.9%. I am very proud of the diversity and capability enhancement that these achievements represent.

I am very proud of the continued transition to a more capable, agile, networked, integrated and potent 21st Century Air Force. This includes retirement of our air combat war horse, the Classic Hornet, and a transition to F35 supported by an impressive air combat system of Growler, Superhornet, Wedgetail, C2 Systems and sensors.

I have been able to witness the development and first flight of the MQ-28A Ghost Bat, maturation of our P8 fleet, progress in a coordinated approach to our Hypersonics program, and the evolution of our Integrated Air and Missile Defence Program from a concept to an opportunity that can be realised as a world class system.

And of course, the formal launch of our Defence Space Command on 22 Mar this year, that clearly demonstrates our recognition of Space as an operational domain that is critical to our war-fighting capability across all domains.

Throughout, our Air Force has contributed to and executed many Operations, both domestically and abroad, continuously operating and quietly getting on with business.

An example of this dedication and discipline is though our Air Mobility Group CoVID-19 statistics – 113 years of combined isolation, with 250 days of isolation being the highest for an individual, and Zero CoVID cases contracted during their missions.

And another example, the Afghanistan evacuation - as a whole of Government, whole of ADF effort - strongly executed with Air Power capability in the Air and on the ground.

Yes, these are good systems we operate, but it is all of you, supported and enabled by family and friends, who have delivered, time and again.

As a Chief of Air Force I could not be prouder.

But there is much still to do. I am pleased with the platform and vector we have set for Air Force, for you, to continue into our 2nd Century.

I am ready and excited to pass these tasks and challenges to Air Marshal Chipman and the new leadership team, and for their work with our Defence leadership. With the standard of personnel in Air Force, and the Australian Defence Force, and your skills and continued commitment, all bodes well to meet the certain challenges of the future.

From Lou and I, quite simply, thank you.

Per Ardua ad Astra.