Rear Admiral Hugh Balfour, who helped modernise the Royal Navy, captained a destroyer in the Falkland Islands conflict, and later commanded Oman's navy, has died of cancer. He was 66.

In a 39-year career in the Navy, Balfour also pushed for the introduction of satellite-based communications for ships after being made chief naval signal officer in 1979.

Born in Malta, Balfour followed his father into the Navy in 1951. He qualified as a signal officer in 1959, and commanded ships from the royal yacht Britannia to destroyers.

As captain of HMS Phoebe in 1977, Balfour commanded a small, but modern, fleet of ships that went to the Falkland Islands and succeeded - at least temporarily - in deterring Argentina from grabbing the colony in the South Atlantic.

When Argentina invaded the Falklands on April 2, 1982, Balfour commanded the guided-missile destroyer HMS Exeter which played a key role in air defence. It was the Navy's first air war, and ships provided anti-aircraft and early-warning support.

HMS Exeter was Balfour's final sea command. After a stint as director of the Maritime Tactical School, he went to Oman in 1985 to command the Sultan's Navy. Since 1971, when its last arms were withdrawn from the Persian Gulf, Britain had maintained a presence through officers in charge of local forces. He commanded the Omani Navy which dominated the Strait of Hormuz, an important oil passageway, during the Iran-Iraq war. In 1990 he turned command of the Sultan's Navy over to His Highness Sayyid Shihab, a milestone in the Royal Navy's involvement in the region, which had begun in 1853.

After retiring from the Navy, Balfour became a communications consultant.

He is survived by his wife since 1958, Sheila Ann Weldon, two daughters, and a son.