Home Europe Second UK aircraft carrier declared operational after major drill

Second UK aircraft carrier declared operational after major drill

HMS Prince of Wales
Photo: Royal Navy

The UK now has two brand new aircraft carriers ready for operations after HMS Prince of Wales was declared fully operational.

The ship achieved the milestone during the major international exercise Joint Warrior, capping off two years of training.

Full operational capability will allow HMS Prince of Wales to join her sister ship HMS Queen Elizabeth, which is currently beginning the second half of her maiden deployment commanding an international carrier strike group in the Pacific.

“We have excitingly jumped the final hurdle and are now a fully-fledged strike carrier, ready at 30 days’ notice for operations around the globe,” said HMS Prince of Wales’ Commanding Officer Captain Steve Higham.

“This is a significant moment for the ship which will see us operate with fighter jets, helicopters, drones, and other vessel. We’ll achieve all of this by working with our friends and colleagues from the RAF, the British Army and across Defence to deliver our contribution for the UK as a problem-solving, burden-sharing partner nation.

“The whole Prince of Wales team are grateful for the support of our followers, our families and our friends and hope that they keep following us towards our first deployment.”

The carrier’s Senior Warfare Officer Lieutenant Commander David Thompson added: “HMS Prince of Wales is at the end of a challenging yet successful journey on the road to operational readiness. We are prepared to support Commander UK Strike Forces and are relishing the opportunity to work alongside other allied nations.”

The final act of the new carrier’s preparation for operations was participation in the largest military exercise hosted in the UK this autumn.

Thousands of military personnel from a dozen nations took part in the combined UK/NATO exercise Joint Warrior/Dynamic Mariner which ended September 30, testing their abilities individually and collectively to deal with global events.

More than 20 warships and submarines, plus maritime patrol aircraft, helicopters and thousands of military personnel from a dozen nations are taking part in the fortnight long combined exercise.

Ten Royal Navy vessels, plus elements of four Fleet Air Arm squadrons (troop carrying and submarine-hunting Merlins, Commando and anti-surface Wildcats and Hawk jets which have decamped from Cornwall to Scotland), Royal Marines of 3 Commando Brigade and the guns of their supporting artillery regiment, 29 Commando RA, plus senior staffs – around 2,000 men and women in all – represented the Senior Service.

Besides validating HMS Prince of Wales operationally, Joint Warrior has been used to refine the ongoing transformation of the Royal Marines into the Future Commando Force, able to rapidly deploy raiding forces when needed.

Staff onboard UK amphibious flagship HMS Albion perfected planning for commando raids which are the heart of the concept, as well as honing skills working alongside NATO allies and mastering the art of choreographing an international naval force.

“Providing a command platform for the Amphibious Forces HQ is one of the core roles of HMS Albion,” explained Lieutenant Mike Cooper, responsible for Albion’s communications and information systems.

“Joint Warrior allows my team to plan and execute embarking a headquarters, along with testing the wide array of computer and communication systems on board. Above all, the exercise ensures that the UK’s high-readiness amphibious assault ship is prepared for any challenge.”