Navy

HMS Prince Of Wales: Both Of Britain's Aircraft Carriers At Sea For First Time

Britain's latest aircraft carrier has set sail from Rosyth dockyard to begin sea trials for the first time.

Britain's latest aircraft carrier has set sail from Rosyth dockyard to begin sea trials for the first time.

HMS Prince of Wales, the sister ship of HMS Queen Elizabeth, will be tested in areas including speed and propulsion over the coming weeks. 

The ship's crew will also be put through its paces, taking part in flood and fire safety exercises.

Captain Darren Houston, Commanding Officer of HMS Prince of Wales, said: "For me, this is a real proud moment, I'm very honoured and privileged to be the Commanding Officer of Prince of Wales but also very proud of my team who have worked so hard.

"We're really looking forward to it because this is the chance now, after so many years of building the ship and preparing for this moment.

"It's now about getting her to sea, getting her under the Forth bridges and out into the North Sea and seeing exactly what she can do and put her through her paces."

HMS Prince of Wales leaves Rosyth for the first time
Nearly a dozen tugs were needed to move the aircraft carrier out of Rosyth's main basin (Picture: Royal Navy).

The £3.1 billion aircraft carrier entered the Firth of Forth on Thursday afternoon.

Last week, the Royal Navy said the carrier was on track to leave Rosyth by the end of this month.

Speaking ahead of the ship's departure, Captain Houston told Forces News getting HMS Prince of Wales out of the dockyard is no easy feat.

"It's actually quite a difficult manoeuvre," he said.

"We have to take the ship from the non-tidal basin and then squeeze her through a very, very narrow gap and then out into the main channel and that takes a number of hours. 

"We have to have reasonably calm conditions, obviously a full tide and about 9 or 10 tugs to assist us."

HMS Prince of Wales leaves Rosyth for the first time
It is eight years since HMS Prince of Wales was laid down (Picture: Royal Navy).

The ship's upcoming deployment means Britain's two aircraft carriers will both be at sea simultaneously for the first time. 

HMS Queen Elizabeth is currently across the other side of the Atlantic, preparing to undergo flight trials with British F-35B Lightning jets.

Rear Admiral Martin Connel, Assistant Chief of Naval Staff, said: "What this will enable the Royal Navy to do is have a continuous carrier capability, and getting HMS Prince of Wales to sea is a real important milestone."

The two Queen Elizabeth-class carriers have a 50-year service life and will be used for work ranging from high-intensity fighting to humanitarian aid and disaster relief.

HMS Prince of Wales leaves Rosyth for the first time
Following her sea trials, Prince of Wales will sail for Portsmouth to be formally commissioned (Picture: Royal Navy).

However, the £3 billion aircraft carriers have not been without their problems.

After just a few weeks of sea trials, HMS Queen Elizabeth had to return to port because of a leak.

In July, a burst pipe caused more than 200 tonnes to flood the ship, putting three lives at risk, according to a source.

But Captain Houston played down any concerns surrounding HMS Prince of Wales: "You always expect a little bit of a problem with a new ship.

"Always with a prototype and new ships coming into service, there is always going to be that flexing and to make sure that the systems and the joints are correctly put together.

"That's the whole reason why we do contractor sea trials." 

HMS Prince of Wales, which is 280 metres long and weighs 65,00 tonnes, is expected to commission into the Royal Navy in 2020.