HMS Prince of Wales: Huge Royal Navy aircraft carrier begins Autumn trials in the USA after leaving Portsmouth
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Large crowds of well-wishers and families gathered in Old Portsmouth to wave goodbye to HMS Prince of Wales earlier this month – as she sailed for the USA. It was the first time the 65,000 tonne warship was sent on deployment for over a year, following a catalogue of problems with the portside and starboard side propeller shafts.
The £3.2bn carrier and her new crew have now put all that behind them, as the vessel has now reached the US Navy Base at Maryport, Florida. Navigators and meteorologists traversed the carrier through the autumn storms swirling up the Eastern Seaboard.
She will be ready to embark equipment, supplies and stores vital to supporting F-35 Lightning aircraft operations. The first stage of three trial periods involving crewed and uncrewed aircraft is due to start. US Lightnings will join the carrier when she leaves the base for a series of exhaustive trials, combining the carriers with stealth fighters.
The aim of these trials is to increase HMS Prince of Wales’ ability to carry out strike missions in ever-harsher weather conditions. Drone tests have already been carried out off the coast of Cornwall.
While sailing to America, sailors have used the ten-day period to train and hone skills, particularly on the flight deck. Exercises include firefighting and crash tests, refuelling and operating with Merlin and Wildcat helicopters.
Sea boat operations and quick draw self-defence exercises were also carried out. Refuelling exercises were undertaken with USNS Supply from US Military Sealift Command, which is the US Navy’s counterpart to the UK’s Royal Fleet Auxiliary.
SEE ALSO: HMS Prince of Wales repair bill
More than 110,000 tonnes of military grey sailed side-by-side in synchronised harmony as the American oiler transferred fuel. The replenishment was done to hone the skills of the crew to top up the carrier’s tanks.
Alongside in Mayport, the carrier’s Commanding Officer Captain Richard Hewitt invited UK Consul General Rufus Drabble aboard as guest of honour for an official reception which concluded with a ceremonial Sunset.
A Mojave drone will conduct maiden trials with HMS Prince of Wales after the F-35 trials – where the vessel will host the MV-22 Osprey tilt-rotors for further training with the US Marine Corps.