Surrounded by family and watched by those at the head of the UK’s closest allies, Admiral Tony Radakin has taken over from Admiral Sir Philip Jones as Britain’s most senior sailor.
The torch of Naval leadership today changed hands as Adm Jones stepped down after three years at the helm as First Sea Lord – and 41 years serving his nation.
He formally handed over command of more than 30,000 men and women, more than 90 warships, nuclear submarines and support vessels, the helicopters and jets of the Fleet Air Arm and the elite Naval infantry of the Royal Marines to the man who has been Second Sea Lord since 2018 and before that Chief of Staff of the Joint Forces Command from 2016-2018.
During his command, Adm Radakin will oversee HMS Queen Elizabeth deploying for the first time and the next of Britain’s aircraft carriers, HMS Prince of Wales, enter service.
He will also lead as the Type 26-class of frigates takes shape along with the new River-class patrol vessels coming into service and the development of the Future Commando Force.
Within the submarine service, the new Dreadnought-class boats will begin to take shape while more Astute boats will join the fleet.
The historic setting of HMS Victory’s great cabin was the venue for the transfer of office, observed by the head of the US Navy’s nuclear programme, Admiral James Caldwell and France’s most senior sailor, Admiral Christophe Prazuck.
Proceedings then shifted to Victory’s quarterdeck and the last act of the ceremony, where Adm Jones’ standard was lowered and Adm Radakin’s flag raised in its place.
“I absolutely believe that ours is a world class Navy, full of brilliant people doing great things,” said the incoming First Sea Lord.
“We are busy on operations all around the world, and thanks to sustained and major investment by the government and the nation, we are growing as a Navy for the first time in 70 years.
“That means new aircraft carriers, new submarines, new offshore patrol vessels, new support shipping, and two new frigate programmes.
“We are going to invest even more in the North Atlantic to maintain the freedom of manoeuvre for the nuclear deterrent; we will continue to become a proper, Carrier Task Group Navy; and we will develop a Future Commando Force with more of our Royal Marines operating from sea, always ready to respond – whether that means for humanitarian assistance or war fighting.
“We are going to use technology and innovation in a much bigger way than we have been to drive everything that we do.”
Adm Radakin’s operational service has seen him involved in the Iran/Iraq Tanker War, security duties in the Falklands, NATO embargo operations in the Adriatic, counter smuggling in Hong Kong and Caribbean as well as three tours in Iraq.
He has been in command of HMS Blazer and Southampton URNU, HMS Norfolk, the Naval Training Team in Iraq, the Iraqi Maritime Task Force, Portsmouth Naval Base and Commander of UK Maritime Forces and NATO’s High Readiness Maritime Component.