The NSW batsman has led Australia in Twenty20 internationals but the retirement of Adam Gilchrist allowed the selectors to begin grooming him for the top job.
The 26-year-old, who made his Test debut against India in 2004, has amassed 2044 runs in 33 Tests with six hundreds at an average of 46.45 and 3920 runs at 44.04 in One Day Internationals during his career.
"We have identified the need to look towards the future," Australia's chairman of selectors Andrew Hilditch said in a statement on Tuesday.
"While we had some very strong candidates within the current team, including those of the calibre of Michael Hussey, we had no hesitation in recommending Michael Clarke for the position.
"We were thrilled with his performances as captain during the two Twenty20 international games this summer and believe he has outstanding leadership credentials."
"To be awarded the vice-captaincy of the Australian cricket team is greatly exciting and something that I am extremely proud of," elated Clarke told CA official website cricket.com.au.
"It was always my dream to play Test cricket for Australia and to be named as the vice-captain of what is an elite side, containing many wonderful players, is a huge honour."
"I am really looking forward to growing in the role and learning as much as I can from the senior members of the Australian side, especially as we embark on the next 12 months of cricket with our upcoming tour of the West Indies," Clarke said.
Leg-spinner Stuart MacGill and middle-order batsmen Simon Katich were recalled for the Windies tour starting next month. Three uncapped players all-rounder Ashley Noffke, fast bowler Ben Hilfenhaus and NSW spinner Beau Casson were included. Casson made selectors take note of his skills with a series of stunning performances with the cherry in the domestic season (Pura Cup).
The veterans MacGill and Katich demamded recalls thro' their impressive performances in the Shield competition.
Brad Haddin predictably will don the wicketkeeping gloves.
Queensland all-rounder David Hussey, sibling of Mike Hussey and Shaun Marsh, son of former Aussie opener Geoff Marsh were drafted in to ODI squad.
Test: Ricky Ponting (capt), Michael Clarke (vice-capt), Matt Hayden, Michael Hussey, Simon Katich, Stuart MacGill, Brett Lee, Andrew Symonds, Phil Jaques, Brad Haddin (wk), Stuart Clark, Mitchell Johnson, Ben Hilfenhaus, Ashley Noffke and Beau Casson.
ODI: Ricky Ponting (capt), Michael Clarke (vice-capt), Matt Hayden, Michael Hussey, Brett Lee, Andrew Symonds, Nathan Bracken, Stuart Clark, Brad Haddin (wk), James Hopes, David Hussey, Mitchell Johnson, Cameron White and Shaun Marsh.