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Mighty carrier HMS Prince of Wales returns to sea

Tugs assist HMS Prince of Wales out harbour
30 April 2021
HMS Prince of Wales today returned to sea following an extended period alongside conducting maintenance and installing new, cutting-edge capabilities.

The leviathan slipped past Round Tower at the gateway to Portsmouth Harbour this afternoon – 24 hours ahead of her older sister HMS Queen Elizabeth leaving.

Both are the most capable and powerful surface warships ever built for the Royal Navy and will be the nation’s flagships for the next 50 years.

While Queen Elizabeth is now fully operational, her 65,000-tonne younger sister has trials and tests to complete first.

Then she will then head to the south west coast for an intensive period of Basic Operational Sea Training, establishing her lethality and ability to sustain operations as a cornerstone of a modern, ready and global Royal Navy.

Commanding Officer, Captain Darren Houston, said: “We have been back in Portsmouth for several months in which time the world as we knew it has been transformed, but as Royal Navy sailors we now return to doing what we do best – preparing ourselves and our ship for future operations.

“Just because HMS Prince of Wales has been alongside throughout the Covid-19 epidemic it doesn’t mean that we, the Royal Navy and industry, haven’t been phenomenally busy preparing her for her next spell at sea.

“In spite of the upheaval and disruption caused by the Covid-19 pandemic the ship is ready for her date with Fleet Operational Sea Training, testament to the ability of my team, BAE Systems and our other industry partners, the Naval Base Command and everyone else who has had a hand in preparing HMS Prince of Wales over the past months.”

We have been back in Portsmouth for several months in which time the world as we knew it has been transformed, but as Royal Navy sailors we now return to doing what we do best – preparing ourselves and our ship for future operations.

Commanding Officer, Captain Darren Houston

Ahead of departure, the crew have undergone twice weekly Covid-19 tests with social distancing measures employed on board so that contact between shipmates is brought down to a minimum.

Ian Jackson, Queen Elizabeth Class Team Leader, BAE Systems said: “I’m incredibly proud of the work our Portsmouth-based team has done to prepare HMS Prince of Wales for her latest trials and training period. Her sailing marks the end of a busy time that included getting HMS Queen Elizabeth ready for her first group exercise leading a NATO carrier strike group.

“HMS Prince of Wales has undergone many new capability insertions that will similarly make her a formidable force at sea and a first-rate aircraft carrier. The team has delivered this programme whilst working under Covid-19 safety conditions since the first national lockdown so it’s a joy for all of us to finally see her sail and have both of our Royal Navy carriers at sea.”  

She was last out of Portsmouth harbour before the impact of the Covid-19 pandemic was felt in the UK. For the majority of the pandemic the ship has operated with essential staff only on board while others have worked from home; 75 were employed at Covid-19 test centres and Captain Houston led a party of 20 to undertake ceremonial duties at the National Memorial Arboretum for commemoration of the VJ-Day 75th anniversary.

The medical department has been deployed all over the country to assist with the vaccination roll out, as well as the ship operating as a hosting platform for key national and international visits, helping to improve the Royal Navy’s relationships with partners. These have included visits by the President of Ukraine, the UK Defence Secretary and the House of Commons Defence Select Committee.

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