UK & World News

  • 30 December 2013, 5:16

Top Woman Officer 'Is Ready For The Challenge'

A female RAF officer has spoken of her "immense privilege" after she was appointed Air Vice Marshal, the most senior position held by a regular serving woman in the UK armed forces.

Sue Gray, who serves in the RAF, joins Air-Vice Marshal Elaine West who was appointed earlier in August.

In her new elevated role, AVM Gray will be responsible for the procurement of fighter jets and drones.

"It is an immense privilege to have served my country for the last 28 years in the RAF and I am delighted to continue to do this in my new role as Director of Combat Air," she said.

"I look forward to the challenges of ensuring the UK stays at the cutting edge of combat air power, delivering world class fast jet, training aircraft and remotely piloted air systems to our Armed Forces."

Air Vice-Marshal Gray joined the RAF in 1985 and was commissioned into the Engineer Branch. During her career she has deployed to Iraq on both the First Gulf War in 1991, and again on Operation Telic in 2003 when she was Chief Engineer for the Joint Helicopter Force.

Her appointment will strengthen the argument of officials who insist there is growing equality in the Armed Forces.

However only 67% of jobs in the Army are open to women, although the RAF (96%) and Royal Navy (71%) are more inclusive.

And women are still a minority group in the British military. The latest diversity report published in October shows that females make up 9.8% of the regular forces.

There are 8,340 women in the Army, 3,010 in the Royal Navy and 4,950 in the RAF, the largest proportion of all three services.

Earlier this month Air Vice-Marshal West, the first woman to be promoted to the rank, gave her first ever interview to Sky News.

She said that her promotion proves the military is modernising to mirror society and insisted the UK is not out of date by preventing women from fighting on the frontline.

"I wouldn't say we are. It might not be absolutely everything, but we are making progress and we are reflecting what is going on in society," she said.

"We've had fast jet female pilots for a number of years going back to the nineties. We have people in Afghanistan at the moment who are there both in the medical profession, but also aircraft mechanics who are flying.

"We've got females now who are flying Apaches. We're about to have females coming through to go on submarines on active service. So this is truly an evolving situation."

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