HMS Prince of Wales, UK’s biggest warship, departs on autumn deployment

Britain’s biggest warship HMS Prince of Wales has sailed for its autumn deployment, pushing the limits of aircraft carrier operations with drones, fifth-generation stealth fighters, tilt-rotors and helicopters.

Royal Navy

HMS Prince of Wales departs Portsmouth for the Eastern Seaboard of the USA to revolutionise the way the Royal Navy operates Carrier Strike Groups. The ship will:

• operate advanced drone technologies, demonstrating the delivery of vital supplies without the need to use helicopters;
• land and launch F-35 Lightning stealth fighters in more ways, more quickly and in the harshest of sea conditions to increase the strike carrier’s firepower;
• and increase the range and conditions in which the US Marine Corps’ MV-22 Osprey tilt rotor aircraft can operate.

Once in the Channel the ship’s company will conduct trials with UK-firm W Autonomous Systems to assess the feasibility of drones delivering supplies to Royal Navy vessels at sea – initially flying in up to 100kg of stores.

Both the Royal Navy and its supporting flotilla from the Royal Fleet Auxiliary are experimenting with drone technology.

“We are all excited for the longest deployment of HMS Prince of Wales,” said its Commanding Officer Captain Richard Hewitt.

“Being the first to operate with this level of drones will be a huge achievement and keep us on the front foot as we prepare for the next major Carrier Strike Group deployment in 2025.”

The F-35 has undergone extensive trials and assessment both in the US and UK operating from the flight decks of both Queen Elizabeth-class carriers and has deployed operationally. HMS Prince of Wales will also be looking to launch and land the Lightning jets in the heaviest sea states, proving that they can operate the jets in the harshest environments.

Once the work with the F-35s is complete, focus will shift again to the next-generation of Short Take-Off and Landing drones currently under development.
The Mojave drone can carry a 1,500lb payload of missiles, rockets or bombs and has been specifically designed to land and take-off from short runways, or flight decks.