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Commodore Tom Cunningham Royal Navy
Commodore Tom Cunningham Royal Navy

Commodore Tom Cunningham Royal Navy

Commodore Tom Cunningham joined the Royal Navy in 1977 and trained as an Anti-submarine Observer before joining a front line Sea King helicopter squadron.  He then flew Canberra aircraft with the Royal Air Force before returning to the Navy in 1982 to begin a long association with the Lynx helicopter and small ship aviation.  He has served in Lynx flights ashore and embarked, on the training squadron as an instructor and seen active service in Beirut and in the Gulf Tanker War.  His last flying appointment was as the Senior Observer of the front-line Lynx headquarters, 815 Squadron.  

Between flying appointments he completed staff training at Greenwich and trained as a Principal Warfare Officer specialising in underwater warfare.  He then served as the Operations Officer of HMS Brazen during the 1991 Gulf War and, later, of the aircraft carrier HMS Illustrious during operations in support of UN resolutions in the Balkans.  He has also served as the UK Liaison officer in USN aircraft carriers during combined operations.

He has had 3 commands.  On promotion to Commander in 1995 he commanded the air defence destroyer HMS Gloucester and took part in the major Ocean Wave deployment to the Far East in 1996.   In 2000 he was promoted to Captain and took command of HMS Fearless and deployed with the Amphibious Task Group for exercises in the Indian Ocean.  The events of 9/11 extended that deployment to over 7 months to participate in Op VERITAS in support of operations in Afghanistan and off the Iraqi coast.  In 2004, on promotion to Commodore, he commanded the coalition Task Force 150 on counter terrorist operations in the Indian Ocean and Red Sea.

Shore appointments have included using his operational carrier experience as the Operational Requirements desk officer for the Future Aircraft Carrier project during the later stages of the 1998 Strategic Defence Review.  He has served in the Defence Procurement Agency as the first Requirements Manager in the Future Aircraft Carrier Project and as the Project Team Leader for the Navy’s Future Surface Combatant Project.  He has also served in the Policy area with responsibility for the development European Defence policy and the capability aspects of UK military contributions to NATO and the EU.  He was appointed as Director Naval Staff in February 2005.

He is married to Sally and they live in deepest Dorset with their two young daughters.