LONDON (AFP) - Britain's MI6 foreign intelligence agency on Friday announced Alex Younger had been appointed as the new "C", the head of the spy service.
Younger, a key figure in safeguarding the London Olympics in 2012, will take over from John Sawers as chief of the Secret Intelligence Service (SIS) next month.
For security reasons, little information is released about spy chiefs - who are called "C" after the first head of the service, Mansfield Smith-Cumming.
Younger, an economics graduate and a former army officer, has been with the service since 1991.
He spent the last two years overseeing the service's intelligence operations worldwide.
He has had postings in Europe and the Middle East and was the senior MI6 officer in Afghanistan.
In Britain, he led the service's counter-terror work in the three years running up to the London Olympics.
"I am delighted and honoured to become chief of SIS and lead one of the best intelligence agencies in the world," Younger said.
"Our dedicated staff work tirelessly against an array of threats that this country faces. They do so in close partnership with both MI5 and GCHQ (the domestic and eavesdropping security services), with whom I am looking forward to co-operating closely.
"I would like to pay tribute to John Sawers for his lifetime's dedication to the country and particularly to his time as C.
"He brought us into a new era, and I am determined to build on this and bring my ideas for a modern service to life."
Outside the world of espionage, Younger's interests include music, sailing and mountaineering. He is married with children.
Foreign Secretary Philip Hammond, who made the appointment, said the work of SIS was vital to Britain's safety and security.
"Alex brings a wealth of relevant experience including his work in Afghanistan and helping keep the country safe during the London 2012 Olympics," he said.