Royal Navy: UK’s biggest warship is all systems go

HMS Prince of Wales, the UK’s biggest warship, is all systems go and primed for front-line duties, as it returns home to Portsmouth after the upgrade.

HMS Prince of Wales returns to Portsmouth; Credit: Royal Navy

The aircraft carrier HMS Prince of Wales has spent several 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.

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

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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.

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.

The ship 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.

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 its for operations in the coming months.

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