Spotted: Royal Navy Carrier at 71 Degrees North

Jan Mayen
Prince of Wales at Jan Mayen (Royal Navy)

Published Apr 17, 2022 5:52 PM by The Maritime Executive

The Royal Navy carrier HMS Price of Wales is working well above the Arctic Circle, calling at the remote island of Jan Mayen before heading further north. Prince of Wales is not an icebreaker or a research ship, but a floating airfield for F-35B stealth fighters. She is the sister ship of HMS Queen Elizabeth, the flagship of the Royal Navy. 

Prince of Wales and her escort, the frigate HMS Richmond, sailed to the frozen volcanic island - located about 340 miles north of Iceland and 280 miles east of Greenland - as the aircraft carrier goes through intensive Arctic exercises. It is exceedingly rare to encounter a NATO carrier operating this far north; for the U.S. Navy, a carrier deployment north of 66 degrees is a once-per-decade event.

The Prince of Wales will now continue even further north for more cold weather tests before returning to the UK, according to the Royal Navy. 

Images courtesy Royal Navy

The aircraft carrier arrived at Jan Mayen shortly after the largest military exercises in the Arctic since the Cold War, Cold Response 2022. Prince of Wales led the naval component, and 3,000 British servicemembers joined 27,000 of their NATO colleagues for two weeks of maneuvers in northern Norway.

The recent presence is part of a broader UK policy commitment to the defense of NATO's northern waters. During the exercises in Norway, UK Defense Secretary Ben Wallace visited HMS Prince of Wales to announce regular Royal Navy and Royal Marines deployments to the high north. 

HMS Prince of Wales just completed a four-day visit to Iceland, a NATO ally and the strategic linchpin in the GIUK Gap, the waterway between Russia's Northern Sea Route and the North Atlantic. Iceland is the newest member of the UK-led Joint Expeditionary Force, alongside Denmark, Finland, Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania, the Netherlands, Sweden and Norway.

“Being the first fifth generation aircraft carrier to visit Iceland has been a proud moment for our ship’s company as we continue our operations, alongside NATO Allies and JEF partners in the Arctic,” said Capt Higham.