Michael Wigston

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Sir Michael Wigston
Air Chief Marshal Wigston in 2022
Born (1968-02-25) 25 February 1968 (age 56)
AllegianceUnited Kingdom
Service/branchRoyal Air Force
Years of service1986–2023
RankAir Chief Marshal
Commands heldChief of the Air Staff (2019–2023)
British Forces Cyprus (2015–17)
No. 903 Expeditionary Air Wing (2008)
No. 12 Squadron (2005–07)
Battles/warsWar in Afghanistan
Iraq War
AwardsKnight Commander of the Order of the Bath
Commander of the Order of the British Empire
Alma materOriel College, Oxford
RAF Cranwell

Air Chief Marshal Sir Michael Wigston, KCB, CBE (born 25 February 1968) is a former senior officer in the Royal Air Force, who served as Chief of the Air Staff from 26 July 2019 until 2 June 2023. He previously served as Assistant Chief of the Air Staff from 2017 to 2018, and Deputy Commander (Personnel) and Air Member for Personnel and Capability from 2018 to 2019.

Early life and education[edit]

Wigston was born on 25 February 1968.[1] He was educated at Friars School, a comprehensive school in Bangor, Wales.[2] He studied engineering science at Oriel College, Oxford, graduating with a Bachelor of Arts (BA) degree in 1992: as per tradition, his BA was promoted to a Master of Arts (MA Oxon) degree.[2][3] He later attended King's College London, graduating with a Master of Arts (MA) degree in defence studies in 2004.[2]

RAF career[edit]

Wigston was commissioned into the Royal Air Force on 23 October 1986 on a university cadetship, with the rank of acting pilot officer.[4][5][6] He was promoted to pilot officer on 15 July 1989,[7] to flying officer on 15 January 1990,[8] and to flight lieutenant on 15 January 1992.[9] Flying the Tornado GR1 and GR4, he served successively with No. II(AC) Squadron, No. 14 Squadron, and No. 31 Squadron, before returning to No. II(AC).[10]

He was promoted to squadron leader on 1 January 2000,[11] and to wing commander on 1 July 2003.[12] He was given command of No. 12 Squadron in 2005,[13] and served as commander of No. 903 Expeditionary Air Wing during a deployment to Iraq in 2007.[2][14] After assignments at the Ministry of Defence, he went on to be director of air operations at the International Security Assistance Force Headquarters in Afghanistan in 2011.[2] He was Tornado Force Commander in 2013, and then principal staff officer to the Chief of the Defence Staff from 2013 to 2015.[3] Wigston was appointed Commander of the Order of the British Empire (CBE) in recognition of his services in Afghanistan on 22 March 2013.[15]

Wigston was promoted to air vice-marshal on 20 January 2015,[16] and appointed Commander British Forces Cyprus and Sovereign Base Areas Administrator (SBAA).[17] As SBAA, he conducted a same-sex marriage ceremony in October 2016.[18] He became Assistant Chief of the Air Staff in March 2017[19] and, having been promoted to air marshal on 20 August 2018,[20] he took up the post of Deputy Commander (Personnel) and Air Member for Personnel and Capability.[21] Wigston handed over this appointment in May 2019.[22]

Wigston was promoted to air chief marshal and become Chief of the Air Staff, the professional head of the RAF, in succession to Sir Stephen Hillier on 26 July 2019.[23][24] Wigston was appointed Knight Commander of the Order of the Bath (KCB) in the 2020 Birthday Honours.[25] In late 2021, his term of office as Chief of the Air Staff was extended from the usual three years to four years.[26] Wigston was replaced by Sir Richard Knighton as professional head of the RAF on 2 June 2023.[27]

Criticism over diversity targets[edit]

When Wigston became Chief of the Air Staff in July 2019, he inherited an organisation which failed to mirror the society it defended: in April 2016, only 14% of personnel in the RAF were female and just 2% were from the BAME community. Also the high level of complaints by female and BAME military staff were a "serious concern".[28][29] Therefore promoting diversity was a high priority.[30][31]

In April 2023, Sky News obtained a leaked transcript that Wigston said he would "test the limits of the law" to fast-track the promotion of women and ethnic minorities over white male employees as part of his personal campaign to broaden diversity.[32][33][34] Wigston subsequently admitted to "mistakes and failings" after it was revealed that the former RAF head of recruitment had identified "around 160 cases" of discrimination against white men.[34][35][36] Wigston apologised for these mistakes during his appearance before a House of Commons Committee in February 2023, but did not resign despite his policy's reported risks to national security and preparedness.[37][35]


  1. ^ 'Wigston, Air Vice-Marshal Michael', Who's Who 2016, A & C Black, an imprint of Bloomsbury Publishing plc, 2016
  2. ^ a b c d e "Wigston, Air Marshal Michael". Who's Who 2019. Oxford University Press. 1 December 2018. doi:10.1093/ww/9780199540884.013.U282626. Retrieved 20 May 2019.
  3. ^ a b "New military chiefs appointed". GOV.UK. Ministry of Defence. 3 December 2018. Retrieved 20 May 2019.
  4. ^ "New Bases Administrator". In Cyprus. 24 January 2015. Retrieved 21 June 2015.
  5. ^ "No. 50806". The London Gazette (Supplement). 19 January 1987. p. 770.
  6. ^ "Air Chief Marshal Mike Wigston CBE ADC". GOV.UK. Retrieved 19 October 2020.
  7. ^ "No. 51903". The London Gazette (Supplement). 16 October 1989. p. 11889.
  8. ^ "No. 52045". The London Gazette (Supplement). 12 February 1990. p. 1978.
  9. ^ "No. 52838". The London Gazette (Supplement). 17 February 1992. p. 2794.
  10. ^ "Wigston, Air Chief Marshal Michael, (born 25 Feb. 1968), Chief of the Air Staff, since 2019; Aide-de-Camp to the Queen, since 2019". Who's Who 2020. Oxford University Press. 1 December 2019. doi:10.1093/ww/9780199540884.013.U282626.
  11. ^ "No. 55722". The London Gazette (Supplement). 4 January 2000. p. 13841.
  12. ^ "No. 56992". The London Gazette (Supplement). 8 July 2003. p. 8469.
  13. ^ "Chief of the Air Staff: Air Chief Marshal Sir Mike Wigston KCB CBE ADC". Royal Air Force. Retrieved 19 October 2020.
  14. ^ "RAF man killed in Basra named". The Guardian. 3 March 2008. Retrieved 20 April 2020.
  15. ^ "No. 60456". The London Gazette (Supplement). 22 March 2013. p. 5737.
  16. ^ "No. 61123". The London Gazette (Supplement). 27 January 2015. p. 1283.
  17. ^ "Ministry of Defence and Senior Tri-Service Appointments" (PDF). Archived from the original (PDF) on 17 November 2015. Retrieved 7 June 2015.
  18. ^ "Same-sex marriage first for Army sergeant on Cyprus". York Press. 7 October 2016. Retrieved 10 December 2018.
  19. ^ "Senior appointments". Retrieved 1 April 2017.
  20. ^ "No. 62406". The London Gazette (Supplement). 11 September 2018. p. 16199.
  21. ^ "Senior appointments". 15 March 2018. Retrieved 3 December 2018.
  22. ^ "Senior appointments". 20 February 2019. Retrieved 23 May 2019.
  23. ^ "A 'generation of innovators' has been appointed to run the military in a shake-up of the top ranks of the Army, Navy and RAF". The Daily Telegraph. 3 December 2018. Retrieved 3 December 2018.
  24. ^ "Senior Appointments – 17th January 2019". Royal Air Force. 17 January 2019. Retrieved 13 February 2019.
  25. ^ "No. 63135". The London Gazette (Supplement). 10 October 2020. p. B3.
  26. ^ https://www.forces.net/raf/news/raf-chief-stay-role-until-2023
  27. ^ "No. 64077". The London Gazette (Supplement). 13 June 2023. p. 11608.
  28. ^ "Complaints by female and BAME military staff a 'serious concern'". BBC. 7 August 2019. Retrieved 7 April 2023.
  29. ^ "Military chiefs are 'pack of middle-aged white men', says report". Sky News. 16 July 2019. Retrieved 7 April 2023.
  30. ^ ""We want to mirror the society we defend", says Sarah Maskell MBE on educating the RAF". We are the City. 29 June 2018. Retrieved 7 April 2023.
  31. ^ "Freedom of Information Response" (PDF). Ministry of Defence. p. 3. Retrieved 7 April 2023.
  32. ^ "RAF boss says he is ready to test 'the limit of the law' to improve diversity in the force, leaked transcript reveals". Sky News. Retrieved 7 April 2023.
  33. ^ "RAF boss was ready to 'test limit of the law' to improve diversity". The Telegraph. 6 April 2023. Retrieved 7 April 2023.
  34. ^ a b "RAF chief admits mistakes over 'discrimination' against white men". Yahoo News. Retrieved 7 April 2023.
  35. ^ a b Reporters, Telegraph (6 April 2023). "RAF boss was ready to 'test limit of the law' to improve diversity". The Telegraph. ISSN 0307-1235. Retrieved 7 April 2023.
  36. ^ McSherry, Gemma (26 September 2022). "MoD admits 'mistakes were made' in RAF diversity recruitment drive". The Guardian. ISSN 0261-3077. Retrieved 7 April 2023.
  37. ^ "RAF's three simultaneous crises put Air Chief Marshal Sir Mike Wigston under pressure". Sky News. Retrieved 7 April 2023.
Military offices
Preceded by Commander British Forces Cyprus
Succeeded by
Preceded by Assistant Chief of the Air Staff
Succeeded by
Preceded by Deputy Commander-in-Chief Personnel Air Command
Air Member for Personnel

Succeeded by
Preceded by Chief of the Air Staff
Succeeded by