HMS Prince Wales has set sail for a major exercise in the Arctic in her role as NATO's command ship.
The large-scale Norwegian-led Exercise Cold Response will involve 35,000 troops from 28 nations operating together in a scenario to show how a unified multilateral force would defend Norway and Europe's northern flank from a modern adversary.
For the next 12 months, HMS Prince of Wales will be at the head of NATO's Maritime High Readiness Force – an international task group formed to deal with major global events.
The maritime task force will include, alongside aircraft and land forces, Royal Marines Commandos.
Around the aircraft carrier will be a protective ring of steel made up of warships, aircraft, a nuclear-powered attack submarine and a Royal Fleet Auxiliary replenishment vessel.
Together they will defend HMS Prince of Wales against threats above, below and on the waves throughout her High North deployment.
This is the first time that HMS Prince of Wales is deployed in that role to Cold Response.
The most senior sea-going staff in the Royal Navy – Commander UK Strike Force, headed by Rear Admiral Mike Utley – takes charge of the force, with HMS Prince of Wales ready to deploy in support of NATO exercises and operations.
Rear Admiral Utley said: "NATO is the cornerstone of the UK defence and our commitment to the alliance is absolute.
"It is a privilege to be the UK Maritime Component Commander as we participate in this Norwegian-led exercise."
Leading Airman (Aircraft Handler) Josh Thomason said: "We are prepared as a team to operate with different aircraft in these harsh conditions and are looking forward to the challenges this will bring.
"It will be the first time one of the Royal Navy's new Queen Elizabeth-class carriers has operated in the Arctic and it is a challenge the ship's company is relishing."