HMS Prince of Wales replaces HMS Queen Elizabeth in ‘historic’ NATO drill

Britain’s biggest warship HMS Prince of Wales sailed for Norway on February 12 to lead an international task group in one of NATO’s most important military exercises in a generation.

Royal Navy

According to the Royal Navy, aircraft carrier HMS Prince of Wales is taking the place of its sister, HMS Queen Elizabeth, which is unable to participate due to an issue with its propeller shaft coupling.

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In just seven days, the Portsmouth-based aircraft carrier ship’s company made rapid preparations to be ready to lead the Royal Navy’s involvement in the largest NATO exercise since the Cold War – Steadfast Defender.

Royal Navy

The aircraft carrier will be at the heart of combined exercises involving the alliance forces, Steadfast Defender – a huge demonstration of NATO’s resolve, unity and capability involving more than 20,000 UK military personnel alone deployed across Scandinavia and northern Europe.

HMS Prince of Wales will lead a carrier strike group of eight ships – four of them British, including frigate HMS Somerset and two Tide-class tankers from the Royal Fleet Auxiliary – supported by US, Spanish and Danish vessels.

The carrier will bring the capability of her F-35B Lightning stealth fighters from 617 ‘Dambusters’ Squadron at RAF Marham, submarine hunting and airborne early warning Merlin Mk2 helicopters from RNAS Culdrose, and battlefield Wildcat helicopters of 847 Naval Air Squadron from RNAS Yeovilton.

Once the work-up is complete, the Prince of Wales task group will move to the High North and Exercise Nordic Response – the maritime element of Steadfast Defender – with the emphasis on protecting northern Norway, Sweden and Finland to defend the Nordic nations from ‘attack’.