The Royal Navy today took charge of NATO’s most important task force with a ceremony aboard aircraft carrier HMS Prince of Wales in Portsmouth.
For the next 12 months it is responsible for leading the alliance’s Maritime High Readiness Force – an international task group formed to deal with major global events.
The most senior sea-going staff in the Royal Navy, Commander UK Strike Force, headed by Rear Admiral Mike Utley, takes charge of the force, with HMS Prince of Wales serving as NATO Command Ship, ready to deploy in support of NATO exercises and operations throughout the year.
Those will include major workouts for British and allied forces in the Arctic at the end of the winter, Baltic in the summer, and an extensive deployment to the Mediterranean in the autumn.
To mark the formal transfer of command from the French Navy, the NATO flag was raised aboard the carrier today during a ceremony where Fleet Commander, Vice Admiral Andrew Burns, supported by Captain Steve Higham, Prince of Wales’ Commanding Officer, inspected some of the ship’s company before addressing them.
Commander UK Strike Force underwent thorough training and preparations for the complex challenge of directing a large, multi-national naval force.
Admiral Utley said:
“Our battle staff have been preparing for this responsibility over the last 12 months by exercising and developing the capabilities required, which culminated in NATO’s Dynamic Mariner exercise in September 2021.”