The fifth-generation digital age offers plenty of exciting pathways for Air Force personnel, according to Head Joint Strike Fighter Division Air Vice-Marshal Leigh Gordon.

The amicable Air Vice-Marshal, who played a pivotal role in the historic arrival of Australia’s first F-35A Lightning II aircraft last year, will retire from permanent service on November 1 after 37 years.

From his office overlooking the busy tarmac at Canberra Airport, Air Vice-Marshal Gordon shared plenty of sage advice for new starters in Air Force as he reflected on a fulfilling and rewarding career that has also been full of surprises.

“It certainly is an exciting time to be in Air Force,” Air Vice-Marshal Gordon said.

“It’s very easy to focus on the array of platforms in service at the moment, but if we actually think about the jobs airmen and airwomen are doing on those platforms then you realise how much more influence you can have as an individual.

“The Air Force of today is far more interesting, far more interconnected and you can have far more influence.”

Air Vice-Marshal Gordon said personnel, particularly those who may be struggling to fully grasp the meaning of think of a fifth-generation Air Force, should think of it in simple terms to help them embrace future challenges.

“There are many ways to describe what it means to be a fifth-generation Air Force,” he said.

“For me, it is a concept, not a text-book definition. A simple bumper sticker description is that ‘data is the key and a shared awareness is the force multiplier’.”

“The Air Force of today is far more interesting, far more interconnected and you can have far more influence.”

For more than three decades, Air Vice-Marshal Gordon said Air Force had always valued his contributions as an engineer and his passion for developing air power.

“I’ve always found it easy to find a passion for what I’m doing in Air Force. It has been easy for me as Air Force values my contribution and it values the contributions of the diverse range of specialists who are essential to delivering air and space capability,” he said.

Air Vice-Marshal Gordon said a driving force behind his success in Air Force and personally was his wife, Adele, and their two children.

“I could not have achieved what I have without my family supporting me. My wife has been an Air Force officer for most of my career and she has been a great sounding board and source of support,” he said.

For a healthier workplace he encouraged personnel “to be comfortable to talk about your life with others” and to also be prepared to listen to others when needed.

Although Air Vice-Marshal Gordon has a deep relationship with the F-35A and has worked with numerous other platforms, such as the P-8A Poseidon and the Heron remotely piloted aircraft, his favourite by far is the RAAF’s former trainer jet, the Macchi MB-326H.

Air Vice-Marshal Gordon said he developed a soft spot for the Macchi while at No. 2 Flying Training School and No. 25 Squadron in the mid ’90s.

“I certainly enjoyed working with the Macchi; it was an aircraft that was made by artisans and had to be maintained by artisans to get the most out of it. It would be lovely to see a Macchi flying somewhere in Australia now,” he said.

As patron for the Australian Defence Force rowing, most early mornings you will find Air Vice-Marshal Gordon rowing on the capital’s Lake Burley Griffin in a single scull. In the near future, this is where he will no doubt reflect on what has been a career full of achievements – one that ended on a high with the F-35A, which he says is “one of Air Force’s most inspirational” aircraft.