Birmingham’s £1 billion Royal Navy ship was flying her white ensign flag for the first time yesterday after being officially accepted into her fleet.
In a commissioning ceremony in Portsmouth, HMS Daring, the Navy’s most powerful and advanced warship ever, was formerly “christened” by Sophie, Countess of Wessex.
Following Royal Navy tradition, the Type 45 Destroyer was affiliated with Birmingham when funding was first approved.
Yesterday the vessel’s 190 crew lined up on Victory Jetty to be inspected by the Countess, as hundreds of dignitaries and family members watched on.
Among the guests were the Lord Mayor of Birmingham, Coun Michael Wilkes, and Lord Digby Jones.
The ship’s crew have been strengthening their ties with the city over the past three years and in September they will be awarded the Freedom of the City.
Captain Paddy McAlpine, who has served in Hong Kong, the West Indies, and was mentioned in despatches in the first Gulf War, said: “We are very fortunate to be affiliated with the city of Birmingham and we have been overwhelmed by the generosity offered to us when we have visited.
“HMS Daring is the foremost air defence destroyer in the world and she provides a huge protective umbrella under which our troops can operate.
“Today’s ceremony is truly a momentous occasion for us and everyone involved with HMS Daring.”
Admirers of HMS Daring include Aston Villa chairman Randy Lerner, who commissioned a painting for the officers’ mess and invited her crew to perform a guard of honour at Villa Park last season.
And the sailors have been working closely with Small Heath School on a number of community projects.
The Countess, who is a “sponsor” of the ship and will have a lifelong association with her, said: “Daring is our flagship and the pride of the Royal Navy.
“We should all be very proud of her and her sister ships as they take their place in the fleet.
“I look forward to telling the Queen that she can have absolute confidence in her newest warship.
“She is the most technically advanced in the world.
“Her capabilities are more than impressive and she looks the part.”
HMS Daring will not be deployed into active service for at least 12 months.
Some have suggested that her air defence capabilities would be ideal to protect London during the 2012 Olympic Games.
Her acceptance into the fleet has been less than smooth over the last 12 months as the six ship fleet she leads was revealed to be 1.5 billion over budget and delivered three years late.
To add further insults, a Public Accounts Committee found that her Sea Viper missile system will not be working when she is first deployed.
But Lord Mayor Coun Wilkes, who was visiting the ship for the first time said it should remain of great pride to the people of Birmingham.
Coun Wilkes said: “It was a real privilege to be here today to see HMS Daring commissioned.
“We are very proud of her and intend to continue to strengthen our ties with her.
“She is an incredible ship and we know her technical specifications make her the most advanced in the world.
“We look forward to learning more and more about her as time goes on.”