UK’s National Cyber Force appoints first commander from military background

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The UK’s National Cyber Force has appointed air vice-marshal Tim Neal-Hopes as its new commander as the offensive hacker unit continues its expansion. 

Neal-Hopes replaces the NCF’s commander, James Babbage, who has held the position since the force’s establishment in 2020. 

The appointment marks the first time a member of the UK armed forces has held the top position at the NCF, with Neal-Hopes having recently served as director for cyber, intelligence, and information integration with the UK Strategic Command.

The NCF is the UK’s offensive cyber unit tasked with proactively tackling emerging global cyber threats. The unit works closely with the military and intelligence communities.

In an announcement, the NCF said Neal-Hopes will be responsible for overseeing the growth of the offensive cyber division as it continues to prepare for the opening of the NCF headquarters in Samlesbury in 2025. 

He will also lead the NCF as it seeks deeper integration with other elements of the government, partners, and international allies. 

“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,” Neal-Hopes said in a statement. 

“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.

“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.”

NCF talent concerns

Among the first challenges for the new NCF commander will be addressing current skills gaps affecting the growth of the hacker force. 


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A report into the progress of the NCF expansion earlier this year suggested that the force was facing several challenges with regard to talent acquisition.  

The NCF’s status as a new organization was also highlighted as a key hurdle in its expansion due to the complexities of combining aspects of the military and intelligence community. 

“Investment in organizational development is important,” the report warned. “Not least given the often very different cultures, processes, and professional experiences of the constituent organizations.”

What is the NCF?

The NCF is the UK’s offensive cyber division and was established specifically to contend with the growing array of cyber threats the country faces.

Linked with GCHQ, the force conducts operations to counter cyber threats against British national security and protect the country’s economic well being. 

“The NCF combines GCHQ’s global intelligence capabilities, MOD’s operational planning expertise, science and technology from Dstl, and agents and clandestine operational technology from MI6,” according to the UK government. 

“The unique partnership continually develops sophisticated cyber capabilities in response to real-world events, to detect, disrupt and deter rapidly evolving threats.” 

Exact details of the work carried out by the NCF are unclear due to the secretive nature of the unit. 

However, in recent years it has coordinated with the military and intelligence communities to disrupt terror organizations and state-backed disinformation campaigns. 

Ross Kelly
News and Analysis Editor

Ross Kelly is ITPro's News & Analysis Editor, responsible for leading the brand's news output and in-depth reporting on the latest stories from across the business technology landscape. Ross was previously a Staff Writer, during which time he developed a keen interest in cyber security, business leadership, and emerging technologies.

He graduated from Edinburgh Napier University in 2016 with a BA (Hons) in Journalism, and joined ITPro in 2022 after four years working in technology conference research.

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