THE commander of the Royal Navy’s fleet in Portsmouth has hailed the sight of Britain’s second supercarrier at sea as a ‘huge moment’ for Britain.
Commodore Craig Wood, who is in charge of the city’s naval flotilla, has spoken of his pride after seeing HMS Prince of Wales sailing down Scotland’s River Forth for the first time.
The £3.1bn warship was inched out of her berth in Rosyth on Thursday before beginning the historic trip down the Scottish waterway over the weekend.
She is now off to begin her first batch of sea trials, expected to last nine weeks, before arriving in Portsmouth before the end of the year.
And in a milestone achievement, both Prince of Wales and her sister ship, HMS Queen Elizabeth, are at sea together for the first time, with Queen Elizabeth currently in the USA.
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Speaking exclusively to The News today, Cdre Wood said the two new warships were ushering in a new era of naval power, with Portsmouth soon to be in charge of more ‘tonnage of naval shipping’ than in the past 60 years.
The 48-year-old officer said: ‘This is a huge moment for the nation.
‘I’m really excited about what this means for the next 50 years.
‘This is going to be a great thing for the nation – not just for the Royal Navy in Portsmouth.’
Weighing in at a staggering 65,000-tonne, HMS Prince of Wales is the second of the navy’s Queen Elizabeth-class vessels.
She has been designed to operate the F-35B Lightning stealth jet and will be the backbone for Britain’s carrier strike force for the next 50 years.
Her arrival comes two years after the build was completed on Queen Elizabeth – which is carrying out her second batch of flight trials with the F-35B in America.
Cdre Wood was excited about seeing Prince of Wales and Queen Elizabeth both alongside in Portsmouth for the first time.
He added Prince of Wales would ‘more than likely arrive first’ into the city – as long as trials go to plan – followed by Queen Elizabeth.
‘It’s going to be quite a sight in the Portsmouth to see them together,’ he added.
Prince of Wales and her 600-strong crew will be pushing the naval behemoth to the limits over the coming weeks, testing vital systems like propulsion.
A team of 320 civilian contractors are also on board to monitor how the vessel performs.
Captain Darren Houston, HMS Prince of Wales’ commanding officer, said it had taken a monumental effort by sailors, shipwrights, engineers, electricians, scientists and designers from the Aircraft Carrier Alliance to ready the nation’s most advanced warship for her debut at sea.
He added: ‘We are looking forward to sea trials and the opportunity to test our new ship before heading to our new home base of Portsmouth to join our sister ship.’