HMS Diamond leads the way taking over Nato task force

HMS Diamond   Photo: LPhot Paul Hall
HMS Diamond Photo: LPhot Paul Hall
Secretary of State for Defence Gavin Williamson. Pictute: LPhot Ioan Roberts

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A WARSHIP from Portsmouth has today started her role as the Royal Navy’s guardian of the Mediterranean having taken charge of a major Nato task force.

HMS Diamond has assumed the role of flagship for a group of up to 14 warships from Nato countries that will operate in the Mediterranean and Black Seas.

The task group has three main roles - remain the high readiness force to react first in the event of a military or humanitarian crisis, deter illegal migration into Europe, and conduct engagement and exercise programmes with the UK’s NATO allies and partners to grow our ability to work together.

The Type 45 destroyer relieves sister ship HMS Duncan, which has held the role of Nato flagship since June. Duncan handed over her flagship duties to Diamond when the two destroyers met up in Bar, Montenegro at the weekend. Diamond left Montenegro today.

Commander Ben Keith, Diamond’s commanding officer, said: ‘It is an enormous privilege to take over as flagship to a task group which is so important to the security of the UK and our NATO allies.

‘It’s an important task, one which ultimately helps keep Britain safe as we work around the clock to guard the oceans and put a stop to those who might otherwise do harm.

‘My ship’s company have trained hard to be ready to respond to anything that comes our way, and we look forward to putting those skills to use with our friends from other navies across the seas.’

The commander of Standing Nato Maritime Group 2, Royal Navy Commodore James Morley, will now use HMS Diamond to direct a force of destroyers, frigates and patrol boats.

The task group is split into two units - Diamond will continue to operate in the Mediterranean while the second task unit will focus on patrolling in the Aegean, working with the Greek and Turkish Navies, coastguards and the European Border and Coast Guard Agency to deter illegal migration.

HMS Diamond left Portsmouth earlier this month for a nine-month deployment to the Middle East on maritime security operations, but was retasked immediately following the events of Hurricane Irma in the Caribbean. She takes on the role of NATO flagship in place of HMS Ocean, which was diverted from the task in order to deliver aid to devastated communities in the British Virgin Islands.

HMS Duncan returns to Portsmouth following the handover, having led the Nato task force successfully since June.

The ship took charge of the group during one of the largest naval exercises staged in the Black Sea, testing its ability to safeguard Black Sea shores and shipping.

HMS Diamond and HMS Duncan are two of the Royal Navy’s six air defence destroyers which are based in Portsmouth.

The navy says they are among the most advanced warships of their type anywhere in the world.