HMS Dauntless left Portsmouth this morning for a deployment to the Falkland Islands.
The Royal Navy has stressed the new £1bn warship is heading south on a routine patrol.
But it comes at a time of renewed and rising diplomatic tensions with Argentina over the disputed territory.
The timing of the Type 45 destroyer’s departure could evoke more anger in Argentina as it comes on the eve of the 30th anniversary of the Falklands Task Force sailing from Portsmouth to re-take the British-ruled territory on April 5, 1982.
Families, friends and well-wishers gathered at the Round Tower in Old Portsmouth to wave goodbye to the ship which is embarking on her maiden operational deployment.
The navy said the destroyer will maintain a continuous presence protecting British interests in the region and also carry out maritime security operations off West Africa and the wider South Atlantic.
Since she was commissioned into the fleet in 2010, Dauntless has been put through an intensive period of sea trials and training to prepare her for operations.
Her Commanding Officer, Captain Will Warrender, said: ‘HMS Dauntless’ ship’s company has been working extremely hard over the last year or so to prepare for our first operational deployment. We are now ready to provide a reassuring presence in the region and protect British interests.’
Dauntless is one of six Type 45 destroyers, which are billed as the most-advanced warships in the world.
As well as a top speed of 30 knots, the ships are equipped with Sea Viper missiles which can reach 3,700mph - four times the speed of sound - in just two seconds.
The air defence system is designed to take down a target the size of a cricket ball travelling at three times the speed of sound and can deal with up to eight different threats at once.
Former First Sea Lord, Admiral Lord Alan West, has previously boasted: ‘Should there be any foolish nonsense from Argentina, Dauntless can sit just off the airfield and take down any aircraft coming in. It’s a game-changing capability.’