Woman to run warship for first time in Britain

August 8th, 2011 - 6:42 pm ICT by IANS  

London, Aug 8 (IANS) A woman will command a warship for the first time in Britain’s 500-year-old naval history, a media report said Monday.

Thirty-nine-year-old Lieutenant Commander Sarah West will take control of the Type 23 frigate HMS Portland. The vessel has 185 crewmembers, mostly male.

HMS Portland boasts Harpoon and Sea Wolf missile systems and Sting-ray anti-submarine torpedoes, among others. The 5,000-tonne ship, top speed 30 knots, also carries a helicopter and can engage in “total warfare”.

West’s appointment marks a historic chapter for the “Senior Service”, which was founded in the reign of Henry VIII, The Sun newspaper wrote.

Women have previously commanded only small non-fighting navy ships such as fishery protection vessels.

But top brass said Lt Cdr West had seen off tough competition from male officers to win the role on merit due to her “leadership, confidence, moral courage, sound judgment and exceptional people skills”, The Sun said.

The navy first allowed women to go to sea in 1990, and it now has 620 female officers. Unmarried Lt Cdr West, who was raised in Lincolnshire and studied maths at the University of Hertfordshire, has captained four minehunters.

She will have her own cabin and steward on HMS Portland, but will dine alone each night unless invited to join other officers, the newspaper said.

“We can confirm the appointment of Lt Cdr Sarah West, who will be Commander West from January as CO of HMS Portland. She will take over command in April 2012,” the report said, quoting a Royal Navy spokesman.

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