Navy

Royal Navy takes command of key NATO Response Force

The change of command was formally acknowledged with a ceremony aboard HMS Prince of Wales at Portsmouth naval base.

Aircraft carrier HMS Prince of Wales will serve as the command ship for a NATO international task group as the Royal Navy officially takes command.

The Royal Navy assumed command of the maritime part of NATO's Response Force (NRF) from the French Marine Nationale on 1 January.

On Tuesday, the change of command was formally acknowledged with a ceremony aboard HMS Prince of Wales at Portsmouth naval base.

For the next 12 months, HMS Prince of Wales is responsible for leading the NATO alliance's international task group and will be taking part in exercises in the Arctic, Baltic and Mediterranean.

The multi-national force was formed to deal with major global events and will be directed by the most senior sea-going command in the Royal Navy, the Commander UK Strike Force, led by Rear Admiral Mike Utley.

Captain Steve Higham, HMS Prince of Wales' Commanding Officer, told Forces News the "challenge and the threat posed by Russia" has already been signposted.

The job facing the aircraft carrier is "to be ready to respond" and to "provide the maximum amount of capability and flexibility" to defence, he said.

Lieutenant Commander Michael Schelcher, US Navy attached to the Royal Navy, said: "The Quick Reaction Maritime Force provides an immediate deterrent to any actor around the world."

The carrier is "able to respond anywhere, within just a few days' notice, to any threat" or provide humanitarian assistance, he added.

Royal Navy takes command of key NATO Force with ceremony aboard HMS Prince of Wales 11012022 CREDIT BFBS.jpg
To mark the formal transfer of command from the French Navy, the NATO flag was raised aboard the carrier during a ceremony on Tuesday.

To mark the formal transfer of command from the French Navy, the NATO flag was raised aboard the carrier on Tuesday during a ceremony where Fleet Commander, Vice Admiral Andrew Burns, supported by Capt Higham, inspected some of the ship's company before addressing them.

As the year moves on, the staff will help train and ready the Turkish Navy which will assume command of the NRF from the UK in 2023.

The ship is due to sail on Wednesday, raising the curtain on a demanding year in the waters of the Atlantic, northern Europe and the Mediterranean.