HMS Duncan has sailed from Portsmouth on a six-month mission leading an international task group in the Mediterranean.
The Type 45 destroyer will serve as flagship of NATO’s Standing Maritime Group 2 – a force of around half a dozen warships which patrols from the Pillars of Hercules to the Bosphorus ensuring security, safety and peace across the Mediterranean.
It’s the third time in five years Duncan – Britain’s youngest destroyer, designed to shield the Fleet from missile and air attack – has been attached to the long-standing NATO group.
And it’s the first deployment for the warship since she underwent a major overhaul in her home base, followed by extensive regeneration to sharpen the knife ready for renewed duties on the front line.
The last act of Duncan’s regeneration was a stint in the Med earlier this year, which included joining France’s flagship, carrier FS Charles de Gaulle, on exercises off Toulon.
Since then the ship has continued preparations for her NATO assignment, culminating in a rededication service in Portsmouth last month attended by affiliates, friends, families and senior naval officers.
With the foundations laid, Commander Ben Martin, Duncan’s Commanding Officer, said the 200 men and women aboard his ship were ready for the challenges ahead.
As flagship, NATO staff will choreograph the movements and activities of Duncan and the other vessels assigned to the task group (currently a mix of warships from the USA, Spain, Canada, France and Italy) individually and collectively.
They will conduct specific exercises and operations, working with allied and partner nations across the Mediterranean, demonstrating the UK and NATO’s commitment to preserving our interests and values.
Through port visits across the region they’ll represent and promote the alliance and underline its importance to security throughout the Middle Sea.
And should anything untoward happen such as a severe earthquake or similar natural disaster, the task group will be NATO’s ‘first responders’ if required.
For Lt Cdr James Smith, Duncan’s Executive Officer and a veteran of several NATO deployments, Duncan’s six-month mission is an important reminder of the alliance’s work, and the Royal Navy’s leading role within it.
This will be the first deployment for 20-year-old weapons engineer Engineering Technician Freddie Day, who said: “I’ve only been on board Duncan for a couple of months so I am a little nervous but really looking forward to going to visit places I’ve not been before and spend time with my mates on board who I’ve already bonded with.
“I am also looking forward to getting stuck in and finding out more about my job on an operational deployment.”
HMS Duncan is due to return to Portsmouth in December.