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UK: Royal Navy cancels deployment of aircraft carrier HMS Queen Elizabeth & sends HMS Prince of Wales instead.

| Naval News Navy 2024

According to information published by the UK MoD on February 12, 2024, the aircraft carrier HMS Prince of Wales has departed for Norway to participate in a key NATO exercise, Steadfast Defender.
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Russian Vyborg Shipyard laid the Purga ice class coastguard ship of project 23550 925 001 Royal Navy's aircraft carrier HMS Prince of Wales. (Picture source: UK MoD)

The Portsmouth-based aircraft carrier was prepared in just seven days to take the lead in this exercise, which is noted as the largest NATO operation since the Cold War. The preparation for the mission involved intensive efforts by the crew and Portsmouth Naval Base staff to ensure the carrier was fully equipped.

HMS Prince of Wales leads a carrier strike group that includes a mix of British, American, Spanish, and Danish ships, forming part of a larger allied fleet participating in the exercise near Norway's Arctic coast.

The operation will test the carrier's various capabilities, including its F-35B Lightning fighters and Merlin and Wildcat helicopters. Before reaching Norwegian waters, the ship is conducting preparatory training in the North Sea to refine the operational skills of its air group and crew.

The exercise, Exercise Nordic Response, aims at reinforcing the defense of northern European countries, reflecting the UK's commitment to NATO's collective defense strategies.

The logistical efforts for the mission were substantial, with significant quantities of supplies, spare parts, and operational equipment being loaded onto the carrier in a short timeframe. HMS Prince of Wales is participating in place of HMS Queen Elizabeth due to a technical issue.

Queen Elizabeth class

The aircraft carrier displaces approximately 65,000 tonnes and measures 280 meters in length with a maximum beam of 73 meters. The carrier has a draught of about 11 meters. It is powered by two Rolls-Royce Marine Trent MT30 gas turbines and four diesel engines, integrated into an electric propulsion system. This setup allows for speeds exceeding 25 knots and gives the carrier a global operational reach with a significant range.

The flight deck of the HMS Prince of Wales is designed to accommodate up to 40 aircraft, including the F-35B Lightning II stealth fighters and Merlin helicopters, with configurations adaptable to a variety of mission requirements.

The carrier's armament for self-defense includes the Phalanx Close-In Weapons System, Mini Guns, and General Purpose Machine Guns, complemented by advanced radar and sensor systems for comprehensive situational awareness.

The ship's design emphasizes automation to minimize crew requirements while maximizing operational efficiency. It has facilities to house approximately 1,600 personnel, which includes the ship's crew, air wing, and other embarked forces. A ski-jump ramp at the bow facilitates the short take-off of the F-35B, enhancing the carrier's aviation capabilities.

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