22/05/2012 05:54 BST | Updated 22/05/2012 09:40 BST

Royal Navy Appoints First Female Commander Sarah West To Assume Charge Of HMS Portland

The Royal Navy have appointed their first female commander who will take charge of warship HMS Portland, described as "one of the fastest and most fearless" frigates in the fleet.

Commander Sarah West, 40, whose specialisation is listed as "warfare" joins the Type 23 frigate in Rosyth dockyard in Fife, as it is currently being fitted with cutting edge Sonar as well as the newest tracking technology and weapon replacements.

West joined the Royal Navy in 1995, just five years after the force allowed women to be part of its ranks. In December it was announced that women will be allowed to serve on submarines by 2013.

Commander West told the Press Association: "Taking command of HMS Portland is definitely the highlight of my 16 years in the Royal Navy so far.

"It is a challenge that I am fully trained for and ready to undertake.

"I am very proud to be taking command of a Type 23 frigate, which is an extremely flexible warship, and I'm looking forward to taking HMS Portland on operations with a professional and focused team."

The Ministry of Defence has said it expects three minor war vessels will be commanded by females by the end of this year. A defence official told The Guardian why this appointment was momentous.

"The navy has had women commanders before, but none of them have made that leap up to the big warships," said a defence official. "It is a significant step up, but she definitely has the experience to do this."