Air Marshal Warren McDonald was born in Hay, NSW and joined the Royal Australian Air Force at the age of 15 as an apprentice motor transport fitter. In 1989, he was commissioned and underwent pilot training, flying his first operational tour on the P-3C Orion at No 11 Squadron. In 1993, he was posted to Canada to fly the CP-140 Aurora at 415 Squadron.
In 1996, he returned to fly the P-3C Orion with No 10 Squadron and was then posted to No 92 Wing's Maritime Test and Evaluation Unit to introduce the AP-3C Orion. In 2001, he was promoted to Squadron Leader and posted to No 10 Squadron as a flight commander. In 2002, he was posted to Butterworth Malaysia, as the commander of 92WG’s Detachment Alpha. In 2005, he returned to Australia to attend Australian Command and Staff Course. This was followed by promotion to Wing Commander and a posting as Deputy Director of Project Air 7000 Phase 1.
In 2007, Air Marshal McDonald was appointed Commanding Officer of No 11 Squadron, for which he was awarded the Conspicuous Service Cross. This was followed in 2009 by appointment as Officer Commanding No 92 Wing and promotion to Group Captain. He commanded No 92 Wing until October 2011, when he deployed to the Middle East as the Australian Air Component Commander for Joint Task Force 633 in support of Operation SLIPPER. With over 5000 hours on the P-3, he has served four operational tours in the Middle East, each one in a different command position.
Upon his return from the Middle East in May 2012, Air Marshal McDonald was promoted to Air Commodore and appointed Director General Capability Planning - Air Force, before appointment as Commander Air Mobility Group. In June 2015, he was appointed a Member of the Order of Australia (AM) for exceptional performance as Officer Commanding No 92 Wing, Director General Capability Planning - Air Force and Commander Air Mobility Group.
On promotion to Air Vice-Marshal in July 2015, he commenced as Deputy Chief of Air Force. Air Marshal McDonald is currently serving as the Chief of Joint Capabilities within the Australian Defence Force Headquarters, following his promotion to Air Marshal in December 2018.
In June 2020 Air Marshal McDonald was appointed an Officer of the Order of Australia (AO) for distinguished service in responsible positions as Deputy Chief of Air Force and Chief of Joint Capabilities.
He is married to his very understanding wife, Sarah.