Vice Admiral Sir Ben Key appointed to First Sea Lord and Chief of Naval Staff

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Vice Admiral Sir Ben Key KCB CBE. Photo credit: CPOA(Phot) Thomas McDonal - Crown Copyright. MOD News License

Defence Secretary Ben Wallace has confirmed that Her Majesty the Queen has approved the new appointment of First Sea Lord and Chief of the Naval Staff.

Defence Secretary Ben Wallace, said:

I am delighted to congratulate Vice Admiral Sir Ben on his appointment to First Sea Lord and Chief of Naval Staff. Sir Ben Key is an exceptional military officer and I have no doubt he will be outstanding in his new post.

As the current Chief of Joint Operations, Vice Admiral Sir Ben was one of the key architects of the incredible Op Pitting rescue mission, which weeks ago saw the successful evacuation of over 15,000 British nationals and Afghans from Kabul.

Every day the threats to the UK and our allies multiply, that’s why this Government has made the biggest investment in the Armed Forces since the Cold War, so that we can modernise to meet that threat head on.

Under Vice Admiral Key’s leadership, the Royal Navy and Royal Marines, are in excellent hands.

Admiral Sir Tony Radakin, said:

I am very pleased to welcome Vice Admiral Sir Ben Key as the next First Sea Lord. As a previous Fleet Commander and the current Chief of Joint Operations, he will bring a wealth of operational experience to the role. He will continue the modernisation of the Royal Navy to help ensure we can meet future threats and deliver for the Nation.

We live in a period of enormous change and I am delighted to be working with Sir Ben in my new role as Chief of the Defence Staff to ensure the Royal Navy and the rest of Defence are a global force delivering for Global Britain.

Vice Admiral Sir Ben Key, said:

It is an honour and privilege to be selected as the next First Sea Lord. I am excited at the prospect of leading the exceptional sailors and marines of the Royal Navy through the exciting challenges we have ahead.’

I look forward to building on the transformation work of my predecessor Adm Sir Tony Radakin and continuing the ambitious modernisation laid out by the government in the IR.

I have seen close up, as the Chief of Joint Operations, the impact our increasingly globally deployed Navy has had. I am determined we continue to deliver on these opportunities, working with allies and partners around the world in support of the government objectives.’

Educated at Bromsgrove School, Ben Key joined the Royal Navy in 1984 as a University Cadet, subsequently graduating in Physics from Royal Holloway, University of London. He qualified as both helicopter aircrew and as a Principal Warfare Officer and has seen service around the world in a variety of frigates and destroyers.

He has been privileged to command four ships: the mine hunter HMS SANDOWN, the frigates HMS IRON DUKE and HMS LANCASTER, and the aircraft carrier HMS ILLUSTRIOUS.

Shore appointments have included Resources and Plans in MOD, an advisor to the Iraqi Director Joint Staff in Baghdad, the UK’s Permanent Joint HQ, and HQ Air Command. He has also served as Principal Staff Officer to the Chief of Defence Staff. From April 2013 to July 2015 he was Flag Officer Sea Training, responsible for recruiting as well as individual and operational training across the Royal Navy.

Promoted to Vice Admiral in February 2016, he was the Royal Navy’s Fleet Commander from then until March 2019. He is currently serving as the Chief of Joint Operations. He was awarded the US Bronze Star in 2006 for his service in Baghdad, appointed CBE in 2016 and KCB in 2021.

Ben and his wife Elly have 3 children and make their home in Dorset. He is a governor of a school founded by his grandmother (Stover, in south Devon), and holds Honorary Degrees from his old university and the University of Plymouth. A Freeman of the City of London and a Younger Brother of Trinity House, he holds a Diploma from the Institute of Directors and is an alumnus of the London Business School. Now much better at talking about sport than actually playing any, he is President of RN Rugby Union, UK Armed Forces Rugby and UK Armed Forces Golf.

Commander of Joint Operations (CJO)

The Commander Joint Operations responsibilities include:

  • oversee the completion of UK military objectives for overseas operations and exercises
  • deploy, command, sustain and recover all UK Armed Forces for designated operations and exercises
  • provide evidence based, policy aware military advice to UK Government
  • maintain a robust and agile headquarters that is prepared for crisis and contingency events
  • build and maintain relationships with allies and partners’ operational headquarters

Strategic Command

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