Royal Navy: Aircraft carrier HMS Prince of Wales returns to Portsmouth on Armed Forces Day

Well-wishers have lined the harbour walls to welcome home the Royal Navy aircraft carrier HMS Prince of Wales as she returns from exercises in her role as the Nato command ship.

The 65,000-tonne warship sailed into Portsmouth Naval Base today, Armed Forces Day, having operated alongside Spain’s aircraft carrier in the Gulf of Cadiz.

A navy spokesman said: ‘The Nato task force – made up of 20 ships from six nations – was assembled to show the alliance’s commitment to the region’s prosperity and security ahead of the Nato Madrid summit.

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Royal Navy aircraft carrier HMS Prince of Wales approaches The Point as she returns to Portsmouth Naval Base Picture: Ben Mitchell/PA

HMS Prince of Wales was involved in her role as Nato’s command ship, which means she is ready to deploy quickly in response to crises as part of the alliance’s response force.’

The naval exercises began with a royal salute from the Spanish fleet to King Felipe VI of Spain, who was aboard aircraft carrier Juan Carlos I.

Captain Richard Hewitt, commanding officer of HMS Prince of Wales, said: ‘Being able to formally recognise the Spanish royal family, saluting King Filipe VI from the bridge of HMS Prince of Wales, was a real honour.

‘Coming only a few weeks after our celebrations for our Queen’s Platinum Jubilee, operating alongside the Spanish flagship represents another milestone in the operational journey of HMS Prince of Wales.’

Royal Navy aircraft carrier HMS Prince of Wales returns to Portsmouth Naval Base after completing exercises off the Spanish Atlantic coast as the Nato command ship. Picture: Ben Mitchell/PA

This week the new Queen Elizabeth Carrier (QEC) Forward Logistics Centre was opened at the naval base, which will provide home port support to HMS Prince of Wales and her sister carrier HMS Queen Elizabeth, as well as other ships in the fleet.

Crew of the Royal Navy aircraft carrier HMS Prince of Wales as she returns to Portsmouth Naval Base Picture: Ben Mitchell/PA