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HMS Duncan completes intensive spell leading NATO task group in the Mediterranean

7 December 2023
The Royal Navy has handed command of NATO’s premier task group in the Mediterranean Sea to the Italian Navy after more than five intensive months on front-line duties.

Portsmouth-based HMS Duncan has been flagship of Standing NATO Maritime Group Two, leading a multinational force primarily working in the eastern reaches of the Mediterranean on security operations.

The Type 45 destroyer and her task group – led by the Royal Navy’s Commodore Paul Stroude – have, as NATO states, maintained “ceaseless vigilance, presence and readiness to reassure regional allies, deter adversaries and, if necessary, defend NATO territorial integrity”.

In all, 19 different ships from nine NATO nations operated under Cdre Stroude and HMS Duncan as the task group focused on its role as part of the alliance’s very high readiness joint task force, which was activated in response to Russia’s ongoing unprovoked and illegal invasion of Ukraine.

As the RN handed over command to the Italian Navy’s Rear Admiral Pasquale Esposito and his flagship ITS Bergamini at a ceremony in Taranto, the commodore said: “Commanding this multinational task group has been the most extraordinary privilege and experience. 

“Every ship and every nation that I have had the pleasure to work with has contributed its own individual skills and capabilities. 

“Yet it is remarkable how through being united by a common purpose and a common set of values, and with a common set of operating procedures and equipment, these ships could come together and work seamlessly such that the whole was greater than the sum of its parts. 

“This is the true strength of the NATO alliance. Our success from start to finish was also underpinned by the power of friendships, and the incredible support that was altruistically provided to the task group by the network of NATO Mediterranean nations. This was extremely humbling.”

RAdm Esposito added: “I inherit an important legacy of all that my predecessor, Commodore Stroude, achieved, and as a task group we are ready to do whatever it takes to accomplish our mission.

“Under my command the task group will continue to demonstrate how well NATO allies operate together.  Our continuous presence in the Mediterranean strengthens the deterrence and defence of the alliance.”

Cdre Stroude took command in June from the USA and during that time a total of 19 different ships contributed directly to the task group from nine different NATO nations: Canada, Denmark, France, Germany, Greece, Italy, Spain, Turkey, and the United Kingdom.

 The task group worked with dozens more allied ships and submarines, which operated in associated support to the mission, as well as with numerous allied aircraft. His multinational staff was drawn from seven contributing nations: Bulgaria, Germany, Greece, Romania, Spain, Turkey, and the UK.

SNMG2 is one of four Standing Naval Forces which operate under NATO Allied Maritime Command, based in Northwood.

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