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UK's Second Aircraft Carrier Attains Full Operational Status

royal navy
HMS Prince of Wales (right) with her escorts (Royal Navy)

Published Oct 4, 2021 2:14 PM by The Maritime Executive

The UK's second full-size aircraft carrier, HMS Prince of Wales, has been declared fully operational after a long workup off Scotland. 

A two-week international exercise off the Scottish coast served as the capstone for two years of intensive training for the warship, her 700-plus crew, the Royal Navy and RAF squadrons who will operate aircraft from her flight deck – including the fifth-generation F-35 Lightning stealth fighter. It means HMS Prince of Wales can join her sister ship HMS Queen Elizabeth as a deployable asset, subject to the availability of escorts and auxiliaries. The Queen Elizabeth is currently on the second half of her maiden deployment in the Pacific. 

“We have excitingly jumped the final hurdle and are now a fully-fledged strike carrier, ready at 30 days’ notice for operations around the globe,” said HMS Prince of Wales’ Commanding Officer Captain Steve Higham. "This is a significant moment for the ship which will see us operate with fighter jets, helicopters, drones, and other vessels."

The final act of the new carrier’s preparation for operations was participation in a major naval exercise. Thousands of military personnel from a dozen nations took part in the combined UK/NATO exercise Joint Warrior/Dynamic Mariner, testing their abilities to operate together. More than 20 warships and submarines, plus maritime patrol aircraft, helicopters joined the maneuvers. Ten Royal Navy vessels, along with elements of four Fleet Air Arm squadrons, Royal Marines of 3 Commando Brigade, and their senior staff companies – around 2,000 men and women in all – represented the UK's Senior Service.

Prince of Wales and amphibious flagship HMS Albion led the UK's participation, joined by frigates HMS Argyll and Lancaster, tanker RFA Tiderace, support ship RFA Mounts Bay, minehunter HMS Pembroke and a smattering of P2000 patrol craft.

“Large multi-national training exercises like Joint Warrior are fundamental to enhancing our ability to deploy high-readiness military forces to conduct coordinated joint operations,” said HMS Albion’s Commanding Officer, Captain Simon Kelly. “During the exercise we have hosted a joint maritime and land headquarters onboard, further developing the littoral strike group concept at the heart of Royal Navy’s Commando Force concept.”