The Royal Navy has taken charge of Nato’s fast reaction maritime task force formed to tackle major incidents around the world.
The UK’s newest aircraft carrier HMS Prince of Wales has also been tasked to be the command ship of the force for the next year.
The UK took over control from France at the head of the Maritime High Readiness Force at a ceremony held aboard the 65,000-tonne warship at Portsmouth Naval Base on Tuesday.
During the event, the Nato flag was raised aboard the carrier.
The task force will be run for the next 12 months by Commander UK Strike Force – the most senior sea-going staff of the Royal Navy headed by Rear Admiral Mike Utley.
Rear Admiral Utley said: “Nato is the cornerstone of the UK defence and our commitment to the alliance is absolute and it is a privilege to be the UK Maritime Component Commander moving into our vital role this year
“The Royal Navy is global, modern, ready and well-placed to support Nato in all its endeavours.”
HMS Prince of Wales will set sail on Wednesday ahead of a series of planned exercises with Nato during the year, starting with a large-scale Norwegian-led exercise.
A Navy spokesman said: “As well as a test of the battle staff, it will be the first test of HMS Prince of Wales since the carrier was declared fully operational at the beginning of autumn following two intensive years of trials and training.”
Captain Steve Higham, Prince of Wales’ commanding officer, said: “This year, as the Nato command ship, we will spend over 200 days at sea operating globally with our allies.”