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Royal Navy appoints first female warship Commander

A British naval officer is all set to become the first woman in the 500 year history of the British Royal Navy to command a frontline warship, a media report said.

world Updated: Aug 08, 2011 16:40 IST

A British naval officer is all set to become the first woman in the 500 year history of the British Royal Navy to command a frontline warship, a media report said.

Lieutenant Commander Sarah West, 39, will take control of HMS Portland and its mostly male crew of 185.

After promotion to the 65,000 pounds a year rank of Commander, she is ready to take her ship to war anywhere in the world, 'The Sun' reported.

Women have previously commanded only small non fighting Navy ships such as fishery protection vessels. But, naval 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 judgement and exceptional people skills".

HMS Portland boasts Harpoon and Sea Wolf missile systems, 4.5 inches guns and Stingray anti submarine torpedoes. The 5,000-ton ship, top speed 30 knots, also carries a helicopter and can engage in "total warfare".

Lt Cdr West's appointment marks a historic chapter for the "Senior Service", which was founded in the reign of Henry VIII. The Navy first allowed women to go to sea in 1990, and it now has 620 female officers. Women make up 10% of an average warship crew.

Unmarried Lt Cdr West, who was raised in Lincolnshire and studied math at University of Hertfordshire, has captained four minehunters.

A Royal Navy spokesman 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 Royal Navy is committed to ensuring equality of opportunity for all its personnel to enjoy challenging, fulfilling and rewarding careers."