Air Chief Marshal Sir Stuart Peach returns to the UK after retiring from top NATO job

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Photo credit: SAC Beth Roberts RAF - Copyright UK Ministry of Defence 2021

Air Chief Marshal (ACM) Sir Stuart Peach has been greeted at RAF Northolt by a Guard of Honour to mark his retirement from the RAF and his leaving his NATO position.

Air Chief Marshal Peach has been the Chairman of the NATO Military Committee, a role he has held since 2018.  He took up the position after stepping down as the UK’s Chief of the Defence Staff, the professional head of the UK Armed Forces earlier that year.

On arrival at RAF Northolt Sir Stuart was greeted by a Guard of Honour formed by the RAF Regiment and escorted from his aircraft by the current Chief of the Air Staff Air Chief Marshal Wigston.  Air Chief Marshal Wigston congratulated Sir Stuart on his astonishing career and on behalf of the RAF and indeed the whole of the Armed Services, thanked him for his service and wished him the very best for his retirement.

Reflecting on ACM Peach’s career, ACM Sir Mike Widston said:

“Sir Stuart Peach is one of the great military leaders of modern times.  He has served the RAF, the UK, NATO and the international community with distinction for nearly 50 years.  Today he finishes his stellar career and returns home from NATO; but something tells me he won’t stop there.”

Sir Stuart is now retiring from the military having reached the professional pinnacle for a RAF Officer.  After joining the RAF in 1977, Sir Stuart first flew operationally, Canberras, in the photographic reconnaissance role, before converting to the Tornado GR1.

During his career Air Chief Marshal Peach has held several senior Operational command positions including being the Deputy Commander British Forces in Turkey for Operation Warden the enforcement of the Iraqi No fly Zone following the first Gulf War and Commander British Forces in Italy during the initial Kosovo operation in 1999. 

Air Chief Marshal Peach was the Chief of Joint Operations at the UK’s Permanent Joint Headquarters from 2009 to 2011, where he commanded the UK Force Elements in support of NATO operations in Afghanistan, Iraq and Libya before becoming the first Commander of the UK Joint Forces Command in December 2011.  In May 2013 Sir Stuart was appointed Vice Chief of the Defence Staff and he became the Chief of the Defence Staff, during July 2016.

As Chairman of the Military Committee of NATO since June 2018, Sir Stuart has been responsible for providing advice to the North Atlantic Council and the Nuclear Planning Group on military policy and strategy.  The Committee also provides guidance to the two NATO Strategic Commanders, the Supreme Allied Commander Europe and Supreme Allied Commander Transformation.

Air Chief Marshal Sir Stuart said:

“WE ARE A VITAL ALLY TO THE NATO ALLIANCE AND THE RAF PLAYS AN IMPORTANT ROLE. I HAVE WORKED WITH NATO FOR NEARLY ALL MY CAREER AND THE RAF’S REPUTATION IS HIGH.  WE REMAIN A HUGELY VALUED AND TRUSTED ALLY.  THE RAF IS RECOGNISED AS ONE OF THE WORLD’S LEADING AIR FORCES AND THAT TRUST HAS TO BE SUSTAINED THROUGH OUTWARD FACING ACTIVITY WHICH WE ARE DOING.”

“I would like to thank the RAF for looking after me for all these years.  I started my flying career in 1974 and I flew on an AWACS mission last week which was an excellent way to bring almost 50 years to a close.  I was a Tornado Navigator and squadron commander for a chunk of my life.  I flew that aircraft for 20 years and most of those missions were in support of NATO.  NATO matters.”

Credit: Harland Quarrington  


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