While the Royal Navy’s flagship aircraft carrier HMS Queen Elizabeth was making preparations to depart from the Yokosuka Naval Base in Japan, home of the U.S. Navy’s 7th Fleet, her sister ship HMS Prince of Wales has headed to sea to take part in a number of training exercises in the coming weeks. The £3.1 billion carrier departed Portsmouth on Sunday, and will take part in Joint Warrior, a bi-annual event involving all three British armed forces as well as military units from multiple NATO partners.
During the exercises, Prince of Wales will conduct operations with her F-35B Lightning II stealth fighters as well as Merlin helicopter – and this will mark the first time the fifth-generation jets have operated side-by-side from the flight deck with a helicopter air group.
In and Out of Portsmouth
Residents of Portsmouth have continued to line up to see the warship depart from the city’s naval base, as over the summer she sailed out to conduct flight training, and even made a debut visit to Gibraltar. The ship had recently spent five days at sea before returning back to port.
The deployment on Sunday will be for a more extended period, allowing the ship to conduct the air wing operations, which will also include a “step change in complexity” for training the handlers who marshal the aircraft on the deck and to and from the hangar, as well as the aviation team in the Flying Control who direct flying operations, and the engineering team who are charged with maintaining the state-of-the-art aircraft.
“During our previous period of generation, we were able to test the procedures, equipment and most importantly our people in preparation for future Carrier Strike operations. Many lessons were learnt and will be taken forward,” said Captain Steve Higham, commanding officer of HMS Prince of Wales. “Although the Royal Navy wrote the book on carrier aviation, advances in aircraft and equipment means we are always actively learning, and Prince of Wales remains focused on continually improving and developing capability.”
This will be first time HMS Prince of Wales has taken part in the Joint Warrior exercises. HMS Queen Elizabeth had previously taken part in its last iteration, which was conducted in May off the Scottish coast, joining warships from Canada, Denmark and the Netherlands.
Joint Warrior continues to be the largest military exercise in Europe and twice a year brings together the Royal Navy, the Royal Air Force and British Army, as well as forces from other nations. The Joint Warrior exercise held last October saw eleven nations take part, contributing a total of 27 warships, two submarines, 81 aircraft and more than 6,000 military personnel.
The bi-annual event has been held for 75 years, and began in 1946 as a way to improve co-operation between the Royal Navy and Royal Air Force in anti-submarine warfare (ASW). Throughout the Cold War the exercises focused on ASW threats in a NATO vs. Warsaw Pact scenario.
Peter Suciu is a Michigan-based writer who has contributed to more than four dozen magazines, newspapers and websites. He regularly writes about military small arms, and is the author of several books on military headgear including A Gallery of Military Headdress, which is available on Amazon.com.