Sir Stuart Peach named as new head of UK armed forces

Sir Stuart Peach Image copyright MOD

A senior RAF officer has been named as the next head of the UK's armed forces, the Ministry of Defence has confirmed.

Air Chief Marshal Sir Stuart Peach will succeed retiring General Sir Nicholas Houghton as chief of the defence staff.

Defence Secretary Michael Fallon said he would be "working closely" with Sir Stuart in "taking the fight to Daesh", also known as the Islamic State group.

Sir Stuart, who is currently vice chief of the defence staff, will take up his new position this summer.

Prime Minister David Cameron said Sir Stuart had demonstrated "exemplary leadership of the armed forces" and boasted "an extraordinary record of achievement".

His experience would be "invaluable as we continue to ensure our brave armed forces remain among the most capable and agile in the world", the prime minister added.


Image copyright MOD

By Jonathan Beale, BBC defence correspondent

This appointment is a big surprise.

Within the MoD two candidates were being discussed - army general, Sir Richard Barrons, and first sea lord, Admiral George Zambellas.

There has been an expectation that the three services would take turns in the job.

Given the last two men to hold the job have been army generals, that might have counted against Sir Richard.

But the Royal Navy has not had a chief of the defence staff since 2003, and would have felt it was their turn.

Admiral Zambellas is certainly seen as charismatic, but that might not be how the prime minister likes his military commanders.

Remember David Cameron's quote: "You do the fighting and I'll do the talking."

Sir Stuart is his own man - a plain speaker and, like his service, far from stuffy. But he is also a known quantity.

He may also be seen as less "partisan" than the other candidates.

Sir Stuart, a father-of-two, was commissioned into the RAF in 1977.

He served in Belize, Hong Kong and Germany in the 1980s, and held senior roles during operations in Turkey, Iraq and Kosovo.

Sir Stuart commanded the air warfare centre at RAF Waddington for three years and served as director-general of intelligence collection in the Ministry of Defence between 2003 and 2006.

He later became chief of defence intelligence and deputy chairman of the Joint Intelligence Committee in 2006, holding the title until 2009.

Sir Stuart was named as the first commander of the UK joint forces command in 2011, and was appointed to the armed forces' second most senior role in 2013.

Mr Fallon said he was "delighted" with Sir Stuart being made armed forces chief.

"Sir Stuart has been an outstanding VCDS [vice chief of defence staff] and I look forward to working closely with him in taking the fight to Daesh and ensuring we have the best armed forces to keep Britain safe," he added.

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