New U.K. Royal Navy First Sea Lord Takes Command, Confers with U.S. CNO Gilday 

November 8, 2021 6:46 PM
Adm. Ben Key became the nation’s most senior sailor aboard flagship HMS Victory. Royal Navy Photo

A new head of the U.K. Royal Navy has taken command, the Ministry of Defence announced on Monday.

First Sea Lord and Chief of the Naval Staff Adm. Ben Key took command of the 30,000-sailor, 90 ship Royal Navy from Adm. Tony Radakin in a ceremony aboard HMS Victory in Portsmouth, U.K.

“During his command, Admiral Key will see the lead ships of two new classes of frigate – submarine hunter HMS Glasgow, the first of eight Type 26 warships and general-purpose HMS Venturer, the maiden Inspiration-class/Type 31 vessel – enter the water,” reads a Monday statement from the MoD.

On his first day, Key conferred with U.S. Chief of Naval Operations Adm. Mike Gilday to “reaffirm the special relationship between the two navies and discuss areas for continued collaboration and cooperation,” read a Monday statement from the U.S. Navy.

“Having recently served as Chief of Joint Operations, I have seen how closely we operate around the globe with our American cousins,” Key said in a statement. “From USS The Sullivans being an integral part of the HMS Queen Elizabeth Carrier Strike Group on her recent deployment to the Pacific, to our combined operations in the Atlantic in support of NATO, both our nations are benefitting from this outstanding strategic partnership with our shared endeavor to make the world a safer place.”

Key, a career surface warfare officer, had commanded the former minehunter HMS Sandown. He became commanding officer of Type-23 frigates HMS Iron Duke(F234) in 2000 and HMS Lancaster (F229) in 2001, as well as former aircraft carrier HMS Illustrious (R06) in 2009. Most recently, Key was the chief of joint operations for the MoD. He was one of the architects of Operation Pitting, which evacuated 15,000 British nationals and Afghans from Kabul.

Chief of Naval Operations (CNO) Adm. Mike Gilday meets with U.K. First Sea Lord and Chief of the Naval Staff Adm. Tony Radakin, and Chief of the French Navy Adm. Pierre Vandier for a trilateral maritime discussion. The three heads of Navy met in France to sign a trilateral joint statement reaffirming their commitment to deeper co-operation and interoperability around the globe on June 3, 2021. US Navy Photo

Radakin will now assume his new position as the Chief of the Defence Staff – the highest military post in the U.K.

During his tenure as First Sea Lord, Radakin oversaw the first deployment of the Royal Navy’s Queen Elizabeth Carrier Strike Group – a key component for how the U.K. intends to cooperate with partners in the future. The CSG deployed with British and international escorts and a squadron of U.S. Marine Corps F-35B Lighting II Joint Strike Fighters that were integrated onboard the carrier with a Royal Air Force Squadron.

“When I look at the deck of Queen Elizabeth, does it matter whether it’s the U.S. Marine Corps jet, or a Royal Navy jet or Royal Air Force jets? And actually, when you put the fact that you’ve got two different nations operating off one nation’s carrier, it magnifies the importance because of the amazing investments that it takes in a sort of nationhood to trust each other to that extent,” Radakin told USNI News in an interview in October.

Sam LaGrone

Sam LaGrone

Sam LaGrone is the editor of USNI News. He has covered legislation, acquisition and operations for the Sea Services since 2009 and spent time underway with the U.S. Navy, U.S. Marine Corps and the Canadian Navy.
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