The HMS Prince of Wales, the UK’s second Queen Elizabeth Class Aircraft Carrier, left Rosyth yesterday to begin its first set of sea trials.
The HMS Prince of Wales is the sister ship of the HMS Queen Elizabeth, currently deployed in the US for exercise Westlant 19 where F-35 fighter jets will take-off and land from the ship for the first time.
UK Defence Minister Anne-Marie Trevelyan said: “Prince of Wales’ departure from Rosyth is a landmark moment for the carrier programme. As the ship takes the next step to becoming fully operational, she carries with her the story of Britain’s maritime might.
“This tremendous achievement is a testament to the talent of British industry and I look forward to the moment we can welcome her into the Royal Navy family.”
HMS Prince of Wales was piloted out of the dock in Rosyth by nine tug boats before entering the Firth of Forth. The ship will now commence sea trials to assess the ship’s onboard sensors, propulsion and other systems for the first time.
After completing sea trials off the coast of Scotland the HMS Prince of Wales will then travel to Portsmouth later in the year.
HMS Prince of Wales’s Captain Darren Houston said: “I am immensely proud of the professionalism and determination that my ship’s company have shown in preparing themselves and their ship for this historic day.
“Whether through working alongside our industrial partners to support the build and commissioning of key systems or training tirelessly to operate the ship and work as a team, the crew have demonstrated unfaltering dedication and resolve in the face of a multitude of challenges.”
The two Queen Elizabeth Class aircraft carriers are the largest ships ever built for the Royal Navy, weighing around 65,000 tonnes and measuring 280 m long.
Once fully operational, the ships will see the Royal Navy once again operating more than one aircraft carrier after the decommissioning of the last Invincible-class aircraft carrier in 2014.
First Sea Lord Admiral Tony Radakin said: “This is much more than just the departure of the second ship in the class from Rosyth, but marks a sea change in Britain’s aircraft carrier capability. HMS Prince of Wales confirms Britain’s place as the leading European carrier strike nation within NATO.
“From high-end warfighting to humanitarian assistance, Britain remains ready to deliver on operations anywhere in the world.”
Each ship can carry a maximum of 36 F-35B fighter jets, which will revive the Royal Navy’s at-sea airpower since the Harrier Jump Jet was retired. The jets are configured for short take-off vertical landing capabilities making them suited for aircraft carrier-borne operations.
The Aircraft Carrier Alliance, a consortium of BAE Systems, Thales UK and Babcock, built the carriers in collaboration with the UK Ministry of Defence (MOD).
In 2011 then Defence Secretary Dr Liam Fox cut the first steel for the Prince of Wales, three years after work began on her sister ship HMS Queen Elizabeth.
The ships cost £3.1bn each for development and construction, and have a range of 10,000 nautical miles, which is extended when operated in tandem with new Royal Fleet Auxiliary tankers like the RFA Tideforce.
The HMS Prince of Wales is expected to be commissioned into the Royal Navy in 2020 and will be based in Portsmouth. After which the ship and its crew of around 700 will begin frontline duties in around 2023.
The Prince of Whales is fitted with Phalanx Close-in Weapons system for anti-air defensive capabilities, and machine guns for defence against small boats. Once deployed, the ship will likely form part of a carrier strike group alongside a Type 45 Destroyer, Astute Class Submarine, a tanker ship and, once it is in operation, the Type 26 Frigate.