The UK’s second large aircraft carrier, HMS Prince of Wales, was declared fully operational after extensive preparation off the coast of Scotland.
A two-week international exercise off the coast of Scotland served as the culmination of two years of intensive training for the warship, its 700-plus crew, the Royal Navy and RAF squadrons that will operate planes from its cockpit, including the fifth-generation F-35 Lightning Stealth Fighter. It means HMS Prince of Wales can join her sister ship HMS queen elizabeth as a deployable asset, subject to the availability of escorts and auxiliaries. The Queen Elizabeth is currently in the second half of her first deployment to the Pacific.
“We have passed the last hurdle in an exciting way and are now a full-fledged attack carrier, ready at 30 days notice for operations around the world,” HMS said. Prince of Wales’ Commanding Captain Steve Higham. “This is an important moment for the ship as we will see us operate with fighter jets, helicopters, drones and other vessels.”
The final act of preparing the new aircraft carrier for operations was participation in a major naval exercise. Thousands of service members from a dozen countries took part in the combined UK / NATO Joint Warrior / Dynamic Mariner exercise, testing their capabilities to operate together. More than 20 warships and submarines, as well as maritime patrol planes, helicopters joined the maneuvers. Ten Royal Navy ships, along with elements of four Fleet Air Arm squadrons, the Royal Marines of the 3rd Commando Brigade and their senior staff companies – approximately 2,000 men and women in all – represented the Senior Service UK.
Prince of Wales and amphibious flagship HMS Albion led the UK participation, joined by frigates HMS Argyll and Lancaster, FRG oil tanker Tiderace, support vessel RFA Bay of the Monts, HMS mine hunter Pembroke and a handful of P2000 patrol boats.
“Large multinational training exercises like Joint Warrior are fundamental to improving our ability to deploy high readiness military forces to conduct coordinated joint operations,” said HMS from Albion Commander, Captain Simon Kelly. “During the exercise, we hosted a joint maritime and land headquarters on board, further developing the littoral strike group concept at the heart of the Royal Navy commando force concept. “