A woman is to command a warship for the first time in the history of the Royal Navy, it has emerged.
Lieutenant Commander Sarah West, 39, will take control of HMS Portland, making her the first female commander of a frontline warship in the 500-year history of the service, a Royal Navy spokesman said.
She will take charge of the Type 23 frigate in April next year.
The Royal Navy first allowed women to go to sea in 1990 and until now they have commanded non-fighting Navy ships but not frontline warships.
Lt Cdr West is said to have earned the role because of her "leadership, confidence, moral courage, sound judgment and excellent people skills".
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."
HMS Portland holds a crew of 185, has a top speed of 30.8 knots, weighs 4,900 tonnes and is 133 metres long. The stealth-designed ship has Harpoon and Sea Wolf missile systems, guns and anti-submarine torpedoes.
Lt Cdr West, who was born and raised in Lincolnshire, studied maths at the University of Hertfordshire before joining Britannia Royal Naval College in September 1995.
She has captained four minehunters and takes over from Commander Mike Knott who has held the position since January 2010.