Well-wishers have waved off Royal Navy aircraft carrier HMS Prince of Wales as it set sail today in a show of force to Russia for its first major mission to head Nato’s rapid response task force.
The 65,000-tonne warship was appointed the command ship of Nato’s Maritime High Readiness Force at a ceremony held onboard at Portsmouth Naval Base on Tuesday.
It sailed from the Hampshire port on Wednesday ahead of a series of major exercises with Nato to be held throughout the year, starting with a Norwegian-led exercise.
The UK has taken over from France to run the task force, which was formed to deal with major global incidents.
The task force will be run for the next 12 months by Commander UK Strike Force – the most senior sea-going staff of the Royal Navy, headed by Rear Admiral Mike Utley.
It comes amid raised tensions between the West and Moscow after Russia deployed 100,000 troops and heavy weapons near Ukraine’s border while demanding that Nato rules out admitting the former Soviet state or advancing into what it sees as its backyard.
HMS Prince of Wales’ commanding officer, Captain Steve Higham, acknowledged the political stand-off, saying his crew ‘absolutely recognised the challenge posed by Russia’ and will be ready to respond if necessary.
An onlooker waves as the Royal Navy aircraft carrier HMS Prince of Wales leaves Portsmouth Harbour in Hampshire as it sets sail for a series of major exercises with Nato to be held throughout the year, starting with a Norwegian-led exercise
The Royal Navy aircraft carrier passes the Round Tower in Portsmouth Harbour as it makes its departure. The UK has taken over from France to run the task force, which was formed to deal with major global incidents
HMS Prince of Wales leaves Portsmouth Harbour early this morning as it sets sail for exercises. The 65,000-tonne warship was appointed the command ship of Nato’s Maritime High Readiness Force at a ceremony held onboard on Tuesday
Capt Higham told The News: ‘We have got our orders loud and clear – we’ve got to be ready to respond and we will be.
‘The great advantage for us is that we will be working with partners and allies from across the Nato alliance and that strength in depth is what gives us the real edge.’
Commenting more generally on the vessel’s departure, he added: ‘This year, as the Nato command ship, we will spend over 200 days at sea operating globally with our allies.’
Rear Admiral Utley said: ‘Nato is the cornerstone of the UK defence and our commitment to the alliance is absolute, and it is a privilege to be the UK Maritime Component Commander moving into our vital role this year.
‘The Royal Navy is global, modern, ready and well-placed to support Nato in all its endeavours.’
A navy spokesman said: ‘As well as a test of the battle staff, it will be the first test of HMS Prince of Wales since the carrier was declared fully operational at the beginning of autumn following two intensive years of trials and training.’
An onlooker takes a photo as Royal Navy aircraft carrier HMS Prince of Wales leaves Portsmouth Harbour as it sets sail for exercises. The task force will be run for the next 12 months by Commander UK Strike Force – the most senior sea-going staff of the Royal Navy, headed by Rear Admiral Mike Utley
Crew are seen from a distance onboard the Royal Navy aircraft carrier as it sets sail from Portsmouth Harbour. It comes amid raised tensions between the West and Moscow after Russia deployed 100,000 troops and heavy weapons near Ukraine’s border while demanding that Nato rules out admitting the former Soviet state
Onlookers wave off HMS Prince of Wales as it departs from the Hampshire port this morning. HMS Prince of Wales’ commanding officer, Captain Steve Higham, acknowledged the political stand-off, saying his crew ‘absolutely recognised the challenge posed by Russia’ and will be ready to respond if necessary
The aircraft carrier is seen leaving Portsmouth Harbour ahead of serving as the Nato command ship, after the Royal Navy took charge of Nato’s fast reaction maritime task force formed to tackle major incidents around the world
HMS Prince of Wales: The numbers behind the Royal Navy’s newest aircraft carrier
Cost: £3.3 billion. Originally £3billion, various faults and repairs drove up the cost.
Crew: 1,600 when fully functional.
Dimensions: More than 900ft (280m) long and 230ft (70m) wide, with four-acre flight decks big enough for almost three full-size football pitches.
Speed: Top speed of 28 mph. Capable of travelling 500 miles a day.
Fighter jets: Capacity for 36 F35-B Lightning II fighter jets. The jets can be lifted from the below-deck hangar to the deck in just 60 seconds.
Weapons: Weapon system capable of firing 3,000 rounds per minute.
Radars: Long-range radars can track up to 1,000 aerial targets from up to 250 nautical miles away.
Type 997 Artisan 3D medium range radars can track a target the size of a snooker ball from a distance of 12 miles.
The 900ft long carrier, which has a crew of 1,600, is based at Portsmouth and was formally commissioned in December 2019.
Alongside its sister ship HMS Queen Elizabeth, the vessel makes up part of the UK’s Carrier Strike Group designated CSG21.
The carriers can be pressed into action for various work such as high intensity war fighting or providing humanitarian aid and disaster relief.
However, the ship has been beset with technical problems and was stranded in Portsmouth in December 2020 after sea water poured into the vessel’s engine room for more than 24 hours and damaged the electrics.
The vessel was banned from setting sale until repairs were made, with defence minister Jeremy Quin revealing the fix would cost £3.3million.
It marked the second leak for the 65,000-tonne ship in less than a year.
The engine room had already been flooded to the depth of 3ft during a leak in May 2020.
Later, it was revealed that the carrier had spent just 87 days at sea during its first two years in service.
HMS Queen Elizabeth also suffered leaks in 2017 and 2019, with the former costing several million pounds to repair.
In May 2020, the Royal Navy launched an investigation after a pipe leaked on HMS Prince of Wales and caused an ankle-high flood.
The leak was said to have taken place on the carrier while it was at Portsmouth Naval Base.
A video later posted on Facebook showed water gushing through the ceiling and flooding an entire room of the warship.
It is understood that the pipe was isolated quickly and the water was soon mopped up by the crew on board.
The Royal Navy later said it was testing its safety systems including the deployment of life rafts and emergency chutes following the flood.
CLICK ON THE PICTURE TO EXPAND. The Queen Elizabeth class features HMS Queen Elizabeth and HMS Prince of Wales
A graphic shows how the Queen Elizabeth class of carriers – which includes two vessels; the HMS Queen Elizabeth and HMS Prince of Wales – can produce 500 tonnes of fresh water from sea water daily
The HMS Prince of Wales has more than 28,000 rashers of bacon on board the aircraft carrier, as well as 12,000 tins of beans
A Royal Navy spokesman said at the time: ‘Following a minor issue with an internal system on HMS Prince of Wales, the ship’s company were required to remove a small volume of water from the ship.
‘An investigation into the cause is now under way but this will not affect the ship’s programme.’
Then, in December that year another leak occurred, with a Royal Navy spokesman saying: ‘HMS Prince of Wales is alongside at HMNB Portsmouth conducting repairs following a flood in an engine room.
‘The ship’s company are getting ready to sail for further training and trials in 2021.’
More than 100 sailors were forced to leave the ship and spend the night on HMS Queen Elizabeth after the aircraft carrier suffered a power cut in Portsmouth harbour in 2019.
Prince of Wales’ strike force: Lightning II F-35 fighter jets with speed of 1,200 mph and a killer punch
The HMS Prince of Wales and HMS Queen Elizabeth both have capacity for 36 of the new F35-B Lightning II fighter jets. Here are some facts and figures about the fighter jets which are based at RAF Marham in Norfolk:
- The jet measures 51.2ft (15.6m) in overall length, has a wingspan of 35ft (10.7m) and a height of 14.3ft (4.36m).
- It has a top speed of 1.6 Mach or 1,200 mph, a Max G rating of 7G, and a combat radius of 518 miles (833km).
- Lockheed Martin, the American company building the jet, describes its stealth capabilities as ‘unprecedented’. Its airframe design, advanced materials and other features make it ‘virtually undetectable to enemy radar’.
- Britain has committed to a £9.1 billion programme to buy 48 of the jets by 2025 – with a pledge to purchase 138 – they will be jointly operated by Royal Air Force and Royal Navy pilots.
- The F-35B jets are built from more than 300,000 individual parts.
- The UK’s supersonic aircraft have been based in the US since their manufacture.
- There are six distributed aperture system sensors around the jet – two underneath, two on top of the aircraft and one either side of the nose. These infrared cameras feed real-time information and images into the pilot’s helmet, allowing them to see through the airframe.
- All variants of the jets are mainly constructed on Lockheed Martin’s mile-long production line in Fort Worth, Texas.
- It takes 58,000 man hours to build each F-35B.
- The F-35 can launch from land, and will take off from HMS Queen Elizabeth via the skip jump ramp, which has been designed to optimise the launch.
- Maximum thrust tops 40,000lb and the jet has a range of 900 nautical miles.
- The jet is capable of two types of ship landing – vertically on to the deck, and also through the shipborne rolling vertical landing, which using forward air speed, allows the aircraft to bring back several thousand pounds of extra weight to the ship.
- The warplanes will carry out missions from the two Queen Elizabeth-class aircraft carriers – HMS Queen Elizabeth and HMS Prince of Wales.
- Lockheed Martin said across the 3,000 jets being built, 15% of each one is comprised of parts from British companies.
- Some of the UK companies with contracts to produce parts of jets includes Rolls-Royce, BAE Systems, Ultra Electronics, Selex, Cobham and GE Aviation.
- Lockheed Martin UK chief executive Peter Ruddock said that, to date, the F-35 programme has generated 13.5 billion dollars in contracts for British suppliers.
- HMS Queen Elizabeth weighs 65,000 tonnes and has a top speed of 25 knots, its flight deck is 919ft (280m) long and 230ft (70m) wide – enough space for three football pitches.