Air Chief Marshal Stirrup was educated at Merchant Taylors’ School, Northwood and the Royal Air Force College Cranwell, and was commissioned in 1970. After a tour as a Qualified Flying Instructor he served on loan with the Sultan of Oman’s Air Force, operating Strikemasters in the Dhofar War. Returning to the United Kingdom in 1975 he was posted to No 41(F) Squadron, flying Jaguars in the Fighter Reconnaissance role, before taking up an exchange appointment on RF-4C Phantoms in the United States. He then spent two years at Lossiemouth as a flight commander on the Jaguar Operational Conversion Unit, and subsequently attended the Joint Service Defence College in 1984. He commanded No II(AC) Squadron, flying Fighter Reconnaissance Jaguars from Royal Air Force Laarbruch, until 1987 when he took up the post of Personal Staff Officer to the Chief of the Air Staff. He assumed command of Royal Air Force Marham in 1990, just in time for Operation GRANBY, and then attended the 1993 Course at the Royal College of Defence Studies.
He completed No 7 Higher Command and Staff Course at Camberley prior to becoming the Director of Air Force Plans and Programmes in 1994. He became Air Officer Commanding No 1 Group in April 1997 and was appointed Assistant Chief of the Air Staff in August 1998. He took up the appointment of Deputy Commander-in-Chief Strike Command in 2000. At the same time he assumed the additional roles of Commander of NATO’s Combined Air Operations Centre 9 and Director of the European Air Group. He spent the last few months of his tour, from September 2001 to January 2002, as UK National Contingent Commander and Senior British Military Advisor to CINCUSCENTCOM for Operation VERITAS, the UK’s contribution to the United States led Operation ENDURING FREEDOM in Afghanistan.
Air Chief Marshal Stirrup was appointed KCB in the New Year Honours List 2002 and took up the post of Deputy Chief of the Defence Staff (Equipment Capability) in March 2002. He became Chief of the Air Staff, on promotion, on 1 August 2003, and was appointed GCB in The Queen’s Birthday Honours List 2005. Air Chief Marshal Stirrup became Chief of the Defence Staff on 28 April 2006.
Air Chief Marshal Stirrup is married with one son and enjoys golf, music, theatre and history.