The UK’s second Queen Elizabeth-class aircraft carrier, HMS Prince of Wales, has set sail from Portsmouth to participate in autumn exercises.
Four F-35B Lightning II joint strike fighter aircraft and Merlin helicopters will embark on the carrier this month.
According to the Royal Navy, the embarkation will mark the first time a mixed fast-jet and a submarine-hunting Merlin helicopter air group has operated side-by-side from the vessel’s flight deck.
This will pave the way for front-line carrier operations.
Later this year, Prince of Wales will participate in Exercise Joint Warrior off the coast of Scotland.
Participation in this exercise will test the ship’s ability to operate alongside other naval, air force and army assets, and a wider task group operation.
HMS Prince of Wales commanding officer captain Steve Higham said: “During our previous period of generation, we were able to test the procedures, equipment and most importantly our people in preparation for future Carrier Strike operations. Many lessons were learnt and will be taken forward.
“Although the Royal Navy wrote the book on carrier aviation, advances in aircraft and equipment means we are always actively learning, and Prince of Wales remains focussed on continually improving and developing capability.”
HMS Prince of Wales recently spent five days at sea following intensive training around the UK, including the embarkation of F-35 Lightning stealth fighters for the first time aboard the aircraft carrier.
HMS Prince of Wales has a flight deck big enough to accommodate three football pitches and can receive up to 36 F-35B aircraft.
It carries a crew of around 1,600 personnel when aircraft are onboard.