Skip to main content


 IT²EC 2024 - defence training and technology event
Ian Townsend CBE

Ian Townsend CBE

Assistant Chief of Staff (Capability Delivery, Combat Air), Air Command, Royal Air Force

Air Commodore Ian Townsend (known as Cab) was commissioned into the Royal Air Force in March 1992. Following flying training, he was posted to IV(AC) Sqn at RAF Laarbruch to fly the Harrier GR7. He spent the next 9 years on the front-line becoming a Qualified Weapons Instructor in 2000 and gaining promotion to squadron leader in 2003. On promotion, he was posted to become the Harrier Force Staneval before moving back to IV(AC) Squadron as the Executive Officer. Townsend deployed on operations on each of his Harrier Force tours beginning in the Balkans in 1998, Iraq in 2003 (where he received a Queen’s Commendation for Valuable Service) and Afghanistan. He was also one of 4 pilots to conduct operational missions into Afghanistan from HMS ILLUSTRIOUS in early 2005.

Promoted to wing commander in 2007, he was posted to the Directorate of Joint Capability (MOD, London) where, as SO1 Joint Target Effects, he was the subject matter expert for all Combat Air matters and responsible for the future planning and day-to-day management of the air weapons stockpile. Townsend attended the Advanced Command and Staff Course at JSCSC Shrivenham in 2009 and was posted back to the Harrier GR9 to take command of 1(F) Sqn. However, the cancellation of Harrier in 2010 forced another career path! Seeking further ’operational challenge’, he volunteered for the post of Chief of Staff Operations at 83 Expeditionary Air Group, Al Udeid Air Base where he spent 6 months as the UK ‘Red Card Holder’ and, on behalf of the ACC, was responsible for the orchestration of UK Air Power in Afghanistan and across the Middle East.

In Apr 12, Townsend was posted to the Typhoon Force and took command of Number 3(Fighter) Squadron. During his 2 years in Command, he led the Squadron’s deployment to Lithuania conducting Baltic Air Policing and conducted a number of high-profile Defence Engagement activities in the Middle East. He also championed the increasing use of synthetics in the delivery of front-line operational capability. Townsend joined the Lightning Force HQ in 2014, filling the roles of Chief of Staff, Deputy Force Cdr and Force Cdr. Townsend commanded RAF Marham between July 2017 and July 2019. During this period, the Station sustained Tornado GR4 operational output, enabled Tornado’s successful retirement and simultaneously generated F35B Lightning Initial Operating Capability, including its first operational deployment. Townsend was appointed CBE in 2020 for his work at RAF Marham. Townsend took command of 903 Expeditionary Air Wing at RAF Akrotiri in September 2019 and was responsible for the delivery of mission-ready air capabilities across the Middle East. He was promoted to Air Commodore in March 2020 taking up post as the Assistant Chief of Staff (ACOS) Capability Strategy at Air Command and transitioned to the role of ACOS Combat Air in December 2021 responsible for F35B Lightning, Typhoon, weapons, and operational training including synthetics.

Townsend is married to Jo and has 2 adult children. Townsend is a Level 7 rugby union referee officiating for both the RAF and Buckinghamshire Referees Society.