Tim Neal-Hopes, an Air Vice-Marshal in the Royal Air Force, was announced as the new commander of the United Kingdom’s National Cyber Force (NCF) on Monday.
Neal-Hopes joins the unit from Strategic Command, where he served as the director for cyber, intelligence and information integration. He is the NCF’s second-ever commander, and the first member of the Armed Forces to hold the position.
His predecessor, James Babbage, was an almost 30-year veteran of GCHQ, and had been the NCF’s inaugural commander since it was established in 2020. As first reported by Recorded Future News, he left to join the National Crime Agency earlier this year.
The NCF was founded to consolidate the cyber capabilities previously scattered across Britain’s military and intelligence agencies, and is expected to eventually be comprised of a roughly equal share of intelligence and military personnel.
Although the NCF is currently operational and “carrying out operations on a daily basis,” it is not yet fully staffed due to a skills shortage across the British military and intelligence communities as well as society as a whole.
Neal-Hopes will be tasked with overseeing this growth, as well as opening the NCF’s new headquarters in the village of Samlesbury in Lancashire when it is completed in 2025.
The head of Strategic Command, General Sir Jim Hockenhull, said he was “delighted to congratulate” Neal-Hopes on his appointment.
“Tim’s experience in cyber and intelligence has repeatedly been proven throughout a distinguished military career, and most recently serving at the heart of Defence Intelligence. I am confident the NCF will benefit greatly from his knowledge, experience, and leadership,” said General Hockenhull.
Alongside his military career, Neal-Hopes has an extensive academic background in cyber, with an undergraduate degree in electronic and electrical engineering, a master’s degree in computer and network security, and an MPhil from the United States Air Force’s School of Advanced Air and Space Studies where he published his thesis on “Preventing a Cyber Dresden.”
“The last two decades of my life have been invested in supporting the evolution of the UK’s cyber power, and so I am immensely proud to take on the role of Commander,” he said.
“The NCF has a clear vision to be a vital tool of the UK’s statecraft, delivering increasing impact for the nation and exemplifying globally the responsible projection of cyber power,” added Neal-Hopes.
The concept of “a responsible and democratic cyber power” is key to the NCF, which published a paper earlier this year explaining the concept informs the ways in which Britain uses its offensive cyber capabilities.
Neal-Hopes said: “Nearly four years on from its creation, NCF’s impact has been felt across all facets of the UK’s national security, from supporting and protecting military operations, to countering state threats and disrupting criminal activity.
“It is a privilege to be working with such diverse and talented people. NCF’s blend of skills and expertise in its workforce is an absolute strength and unlike anywhere else because of its unique defence and intelligence partnership. I am committed to realising the vision for the NCF and building a force that truly represents the nation we serve.”
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Alexander Martin is the UK Editor for Recorded Future News. He was previously a technology reporter for Sky News and is also a fellow at the European Cyber Conflict Research Initiative.