Royal Navy helicopter carrier HMS Ocean has taken command of Task Force 50 in the Gulf, the first time the UK led a US task force in the Middle East.
Commodore Andrew Burns, the Royal Navy’s Commander Amphibious Task Group, has taken charge of the US task force while currently embarked on HMS Ocean.
A change-of-command ceremony took place on board the USS Dwight D Eisenhower, during which Commodore Burns assumed the role of Commander Task Force 50 from US Navy Rear Admiral James Malloy.
Commodore Andrew Burns said:
“Together we have had an enduring Royal Navy and US Navy presence in this region that has contributed to stability, order on the high seas and freedom of navigation, and ensured the free flow of commerce, so vital to the prosperity of our nations,” said Commodore Burns.
Today marks the start of another chapter in this partnership as the Royal Navy takes on the privilege of leading a US task force in the Middle East for the first time.”
Rear Admiral Malloy said:
“I cannot think of a more capable officer and friend to continue this mission out here than Commodore Burns. Security and stability cannot be maintained by one nation alone. Working together with our UK and other coalition counterparts, I am confident in the success of our shared interest for security, stability and prosperity in this region.”
The 21,000 tonne vessel is an amphibious assault ship and landing platform helicopter. She is designed to support amphibious landing operations and to support the staff of Commander UK Amphibious Force and Commander UK Landing Force.
It is understood she has been chosen due to her command and control capabilities, rather than aviation capabilities as the role will largely be co-ordination of operations and the fleet itself.
Last year, French aircraft carrier FS Charles de Gaulle took command of US Naval Forces Central Command’s Task Force 50.
The commander of the Task Force will be leading coalition naval strike operations for Operation Inherent Resolve, the purpose of which is “to fight and ultimately destroy” Islamic State.