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HMS Prince of Wales returns to Portsmouth primed for front-line duties

4 August 2023
Britain’s biggest warship is all systems go – and primed for front-line duties – as she returns home to Portsmouth today.

HMS Prince of Wales has spent the last ten days ramping up for an autumn deployment, which will see the ship operate a multitude of aircraft and drones off the east coast of the United States, pushing the boundaries of carrier operations.

The 65,000-tonne behemoth made ‘calm seas rage’ on a series of trials, putting her upgrades through their paces and ensuring all her state-of-the-art systems were ready for full action.

It was then onto the carrier’s main line of work as the flight deck reopened for business, with Chinook and Merlin helicopters appearing on board during a busy schedule of day and night flying.

HMS Prince of Wales also worked with F-35B Lightning aircraft – the fifth-generation stealth jet the ship was designed around – and Typhoon fighters on air defence training.

It means both the Royal Navy’s aircraft carriers are now ready for deployments this autumn.

Fleet flagship HMS Queen Elizabeth completed a period of sea training in June and flying operations with F-35B jets from 617 Squadron and Wildcat and Merlin helicopters across July, readying her for operations in the coming months.

HMS Prince of Wales’ Commanding Officer, Captain Richard Hewitt, said: “My sailors have worked hard to get us back to sea and ready to deploy this autumn. Now back in Portsmouth we will take some leave with families and friends and then we go.”

Prince of Wales also worked with Royal Fleet Auxiliary tanker RFA Tidesurge to take on diesel and aviation fuel while sailing.

Known as a replenishment at sea, this involves intricate work as the tanker and carrier manoeuvre close together and fuel lines are fed between the two.

This allows the carrier to stay on operations longer, keeping aircraft and the ship fuelled and where they are needed most.

This intensive phase at sea ensures the ship is ready for tasking and has refreshed the ship’s company on key skills ahead of a high tempo of operations in the coming months.

The carrier will be looking to build on her previous successes including acting as NATO’s command ship and leading the Maritime High Readiness Force in the Arctic, before she takes over from HMS Queen Elizabeth as the nation’s flagship in 2024.

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