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NATO ships join UK Carrier Strike Group for start of exercise

HMS Prince of Wales, HMS Portland and RFA Tidesurge have been joined by warships from NATO allies. Picture: LPhot Belinda Alker
26 February 2024
NATO warships have joined HMS Prince of Wales for the start of exercises off the UK coast.

The carrier and her task force practised sailing in close formation and learned how different navies operate as they began Joint Warrior – testing the readiness of the UK Carrier Strike Group and its ability to deter threats.

Royal Navy frigate HMS Portland and tankers RFA Tideforce and Tidespring joined Prince of Wales last week and their numbers were bolstered by Royal Canadian ship Navy Halifax-class frigate HMCS Charlottetown; Spanish Navy Alvaro de Bazan-class air defence frigate SNS Cristobal Colon and Danish Navy Iver Huitfeldt-class frigate HMDS Niels Juel.

The close manoeuvring was a chance to test the navigation officers and bridge teams of all the ships involved, as they overcame language barriers and sailing ships of varying sizes in tight formation.

HMS Prince of Wales is now under NATO command for the first time since 2022.

Her navigator, Lieutenant Commander Tom Parsons, said: “Bringing together warships from different countries is always an enjoyable challenge, especially when we manoeuvre as closely as we have done so today.

“Although we may all speak different languages day-to-day, today is proof that there is no barrier to us operating as a single Carrier Strike Group.

“My bridge team and I are looking forward to the coming weeks as we get to know our NATO allies better as we tackle increasingly demanding exercises side by side.”

The fact that our Carrier Strike Group now includes ships from four NATO countries speaks to the level of unity, interoperability and resolve that exists across the NATO alliance.

UK Carrier Strike Group Deputy Commander and Chief of Staff, Captain John Cromie

Joint Warrior is one aspect of NATO’s biggest exercise in a generation Exercise Steadfast Defender which will see dozens of countries work together across Scandinavia and northern Europe, demonstrating NATO’s resolve, unity and capability.

While the UK Carrier Strike Group operates at sea, Royal Marines have once again deployed to Norway to test their ability fight and defend in one of the harshest environments on Earth.

UK Carrier Strike Group Deputy Commander and Chief of Staff, Captain John Cromie, said: “Earlier this week, we saw the primary ‘striking’ capability of the force arrive with the embarkation of our F-35Bs.

“Today, we saw the international elements of the ‘group’ assemble with four ships from NATO allies joining the two UK units already escorting HMS Prince of Wales. An aircraft carrier cannot operate effectively without the protection of escorts or the logistic support provided by auxiliaries.

“The fact that our Carrier Strike Group now includes ships from four NATO countries speaks to the level of unity, interoperability and resolve that exists across the NATO alliance.

“We are now ready to commence Exercise Joint Warrior, a maritime exercise that is but one part of Steadfast Defender, and through which we will demonstrate to any potential adversary our absolute determination to defend ourselves and our allies.”

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