Commodore Mike Utley OBE formally handed over command of the Standing NATO Maritime Group Two (SNMG2) to his Dutch counterpart Commodore Boudewijn GFM Boots, in the port of Lisbon on Saturday 30 June.
This marked the end of a year long UK commitment leading SNMG2. Rear Admiral James Morley assumed command of SNMG2 during a ceremony in Souda Bay, Crete 12 months previously before handing over to Commodore Mike Utley on the 4 January 2018.
HNLMS De Ruyter assumed the SNMG2 flagship role from HMS Duncan during the same ceremony, which was presided over by Commander Allied Maritime Command Vice Admiral Clive C C Johnstone CB CBE.
Success on operations has been the guiding principle of the UK’s leadership of SNMG2. The focus has been on operational output, seeking to improve warfighting capabilities, strengthening reassurance to regional partners and delivering strategic deterrence effect.
SNMG2 fulfils a vital contingency role in the Mediterranean region. It can never be predicted what events or emerging threats may arise, but as the very high readiness force the Task Group would be the first on call and ready to respond as part of a combined and effective NATO force.
The Type 45 Destroyer HMS Duncan represents the most recent in a sequence of Royal Navy commitments to this significant NATO task. HMS Duncan has twice flown the SNMG2 Commander’s pennant.
HMS Ocean and Duncan’s sister ship HMS Diamond have also assumed the flagship role during the 12-month period. The UK also commands the NATO Minehunting Force SNMCMG2 with HMS Enterprise acting as the flagship.
HMS Duncan is set to return to her homeport of Portsmouth in July after an eventful deployment which has seen her operate in the Black Sea and Mediterranean for six months. The Type 45 destroyer provided an air picture to NATO during the US/FR/UK air strikes in Syria and rescued two Algerian fishermen lost at sea for a number of days.
Commodore Utley said, “To command SNMG2 during a successful deployment and a period of significant UK contribution to NATO has been an honour.
“I am proud of the achievements and the contributions made to maritime security, regional stability and Defence Engagement whilst operating in the Mediterranean and Black Sea.
“The delivery of such strategic effect has been made possible by having a highly capable and versatile Flagship such as HMS Duncan and all the allied ships which have worked with us.”