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UK Leads U.S. Task Force 50 in Arabian Gulf for First Time | ASHARQ AL-AWSAT English Archive 2005 -2017
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Commodore Andrew Burns (right) is now in charge of up to eight warships after taking over from Rear Admiral James Malloy. AP

London- An officer in the United Kingdom’s navy has been assigned to lead the U.S. Naval Forces Central Command’s “Task Force 50” for the first time.

By this move, Royal Navy Commodore Andrew Burns, commander of Amphibious Task Group embarked on the UK’s premier naval warship, HMS Ocean (L 12) and has become responsible for commanding eight ships and other destroyers in a historic step.

This marks the first time a Royal Navy officer has led a U.S. task force in the Middle East and demonstrates a significant step in combined maritime operations.

Burns said this assumption of command by the Royal Navy is a significant development in the U.S.-UK partnership.

“Together we have had an enduring presence in this region that has contributed to stability, order on the high seas and freedom of navigation, and ensuring the free flow of commerce, so vital to the prosperity of our respective nations,” said Burns.

“Today marks the start of another chapter in this partnership as the Royal Navy takes on the privilege of leading a U.S. task force in the Middle East for the first time.”

A helicopter carrier and amphibious assault ship, Ocean is the flagship of the Royal Navy and will be providing continued forward presence in the Arabian Gulf.

Capable of delivering Sailors and Marines by helicopter or landing craft, this premier naval warship brings its own unique capability of ensuring free flow of commerce, freedom of navigation and regional security.

The Daily Mail reported that the huge aircraft carrier U.S.S. Eisenhower boasts 66 jets and helicopters – compared to two helicopters on HMS Ocean, which will focus on maritime activity rather than ISIS.

There are 44 F-18 warplanes alone on the massive aircraft carrier, the site published.

The choke points include the Straits of Hormuz off Iran, the Bab al-Mendeb off Somalia and the Suez Canal.

HMS Ocean – an amphibious assault ship – currently has just over 500 crew on board, including 30 Royal Marines, to deal with any threat from the region.

It is covering for the U.S. until another carrier, U.S.S. HW George Bush, arrives in February.

It will be joined immediately by U.S.S. Monterey – a guided missile cruiser. The UK’s HMS Daring is on its way to help defend the region and up to five other ships could come under its control.

For his part, Adm. James Malloy, commander of Carrier Strike Group (CSG) 10, said the handover of the CTF 50 to the Royal Navy, “represents a wise investment in this region’s future.”

“Hearing of his sterling reputation long before meeting him last month, I cannot think of a more capable officer and friend to continue the mission out here than Commodore Burns,” Malloy said.

“Security and stability cannot be maintained by one nation alone. Working together with our UK and other coalition counterparts, I am confident in the success of our shared interest for security, stability and prosperity in this region.”