NATO warships join UK’s HMS Prince of Wales for exercise Steadfast Defender

NATO warships have joined HMS Prince of Wales for the start of exercises Steadfast Defender off the UK coast.

UK CARRIER STRIKE GROUP ASSEMBLES; Royal Navy Viewed from the front - HMS Prince of Wales; Row 2 (L-R) – HMS Portland, RFA Tidesurge, HMCS Charlottetown; Row 3 (L-R) – SNS Cristόbal Colόn, RFA Tidespring, HMDS Niels Juel. Aerial imagery of the UKCSG Task Group taken from a Merlin Mk2 of 814 Naval Air Squadron. UK Carrier Strike Group (CSG) units assembled for the start of Exercise Joint Warrior, a UK led exercise forming part of NATO Exercise Steadfast Defender (STDE24). The task group is led by the UKCSG embarked on HMS Prince of Wales, which is operating F-35B jets alongside Merlin and Wildcat helicopters. The carrier is escorted by: HMS Portland, a Royal Navy Type 23 frigate; HMCS Charlottetown, a Royal Canadian Navy Halifax-class frigate; SNS Cristόbal Colόn, a Spanish Navy Álvaro de Bazán-class air defence frigate; HMDS Niels Juel, a Danish Iver Huitfeldt-class frigate. Logistical support is supplied by RFA Tidesurge and RFA Tidespring, allowing the Carrier Strike Group to remain at sea for extended periods of time. Exercise Steadfast Defender will be the largest NATO Exercise in decades. NATO will demonstrate the employment of forces across multiple regions and in multiple domains (maritime, land, air, space and cyber). The vast scale of this exercise will occur over several months and over thousands of kilometres, and will involve tens-of-thousands of Allied troops from almost every NATO Ally. In addition, a variety of national training manoeuvres will be integrated into the overall exercise concept. CSG participation in STDE24 is a demonstration of the UK's capabilities and ability to deploy and operate in the harshest of environments and our commitment to NATO's objectives to defend allied territory and deter adversaries.

The carrier and its task force practiced sailing in close formation and learned how different navies operate as they began Joint Warrior – testing the readiness of the UK Carrier Strike Group and its ability to deter threats.

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Royal Navy frigate HMS Portland and tanker RFA Tideforce joined Prince of Wales last week and their numbers were bolstered by Royal Canadian ship Navy Halifax-class frigate HMCS Charlottetown; Spanish Navy Alvaro de Bazan-class air defence frigate SNS Cristobal Colon and Danish Navy Iver Huitfeldt-class frigate HMDS Niels Juel.

The close maneuvering was a chance to test the navigation officers and bridge teams of all the ships involved, as they overcame language barriers and sailing ships of varying sizes in tight formation.

HMS Prince of Wales is now under NATO command for the first time since 2022.

Joint Warrior is one aspect of NATO’s biggest exercise in a generation Exercise Steadfast Defender which will see dozens of countries work together across Scandinavia and northern Europe, demonstrating NATO’s resolve, unity and capability.

While the UK Carrier Strike Group operates at sea, Royal Marines have once again deployed to Norway to test their ability fight and defend in one of the harshest environments on Earth.

UK Carrier Strike Group Deputy Commander and Chief of Staff, Captain John Cromie, said: “Earlier this week, we saw the primary ‘striking’ capability of the force arrive with the embarkation of our F-35Bs.