Navy

HMS Prince Of Wales Prepares For Frontline Operations With Aviation Trials

The aircraft carrier has been training with the RAF and Commando Helicopter Force as it works towards being declared operational.

HMS Prince of Wales has been preparing for frontline operations, spending most of her first fortnight back at sea conducting aviation trials with the RAF and Commando Helicopter Force.

With a substantially different ship's company from her previous outing in spring last year, the training in Lyme Bay off the south coast of England has been a mix of brushing up on old skills for some and new experiences for many on board the aircraft carrier.

Chinooks from 7 Squadron have been helping to train the carrier's air department alongside commando-carrying Merlins of 846 Naval Air Squadron from RNAS Yeovilton.

During lockdown, the bay has become an anchorage for a sizeable chunk of the cruise industry – at least five major liners right now, including the Cunard Line's Queen Mary 2 and Queen Victoria.

The aircraft carrier's seaman specialists have been making use of the two Cunarders, practising various seaboat operations and manoeuvres in their Pacific 24 boats.

Commander Phil Beacham, head of aviation operations aboard the vessel, explained why the training has been crucial for the ship's crew.

HMS Prince of Wales (left) and HMS Queen Elizabeth (right) recently met at sea for the first time (Picture: Royal Navy).

"It's fantastic to be back at sea operating numerous aircraft types from all three services.

"The ship has a combination of highly experienced air department personnel – and much-less-experienced sailors across other departments.

"This essential sea period is giving our new sailors crucial maritime aviation experience, moving Prince of Wales towards her full operational capability and helping to build the future Royal Navy."

HMS Prince of Wales has spent much of the training in Lyme Bay, however, the ship did venture out into the Channel for a fuel resupply from tanker RFA Tiderace.

The £3.2bn aircraft carrier also had the opportunity to sail alongside her big sister HMS Queen Elizabeth for the first time before she returned to Portsmouth on Wednesday evening.

HMS Queen Elizabeth has since set sail from her home base for her first maiden operational deployment – Carrier Strike Group 21. 

It will see the Strike Group sail 26,000 nautical miles over 28 weeks and visit 40 countries, including India, Japan, South Korea and Singapore.

Cover image: A Merlin helicopter prepares to take off from HMS Prince of Wales (Picture: Royal Navy).