Royal Navy's new aircraft carrier HMS Prince of Wales has first encounter with a Russian warship
BRITAIN’S newest £3.2bn aircraft carrier HMS Prince of Wales had her first run-in with a Russian warship while taking part in Europe’s largest military drill.
The 65,000-tonne supercarrier from Portsmouth was on the bi-annual Exercise Joint Warrior when she spotted the Russian Cold War vessel the Smolnyy.
The foreign ship is understood to have been shadowing the Nato fleet during its series of war games, which involved some 27 vessels from nine countries within the alliance.
HMS Prince of Wales shared news of the sighting during a post on its official Twitter account, in which it said it was ‘keeping an eye’ on the Russian training ship, which was pictured in a photo.
The post on social media, made yesterday afternoon, was promptly deleted by the Royal Navy, with a source claiming it had been made ‘in error’. It’s not known exactly where the ship was spotted and whether it was in British waters at the time.
The Royal Navy said it would not comment about ongoing operations.
However, a spokeswoman said: ‘HMS Prince of Wales is at sea taking part in Exercise Joint Warrior along with 27 ships from nine other Nato nations. During the exercise the Royal Navy and NATO monitors and tracks nearby naval activity.’
The encounter comes amid political tension between Moscow and London, following a naval encounter between Portsmouth-based destroyer HMS Defender and Russian coastal forces near the Crimean peninsula earlier this year.
The 7270-tonne Smolnyy was commissioned by the Russians in 1976.
Armed with four 76mm guns and two, twin 30mm anti-aircraft guns, the vessel’s main role is to train future Russian sailors.
It has a complement of 132 sailors plus 30 instructors and around 300 cadets.
HMS Prince of Wales meanwhile can accommodate up to 1,600 personnel.
The ship departed from Portsmouth earlier this month to join with the Nato exercise, led by the UK and run twice a year – first in the spring then the autumn.
The training drill has seen the aircraft carrier embark a squadron of F-35s from 207 Squadron for two weeks.
The stealth jets carried out numerous trials and training drills from Prince of Wales’s enormous four-acre flight deck – roughly the size of three football fields.
It has been a busy time, too, for sailors on board the vessel, who have been sharpening a range of maritime skills, from dealing with threats and emergencies at sea, to conducting first aid drills and honing firefighting techniques.
Prince of Wales is due back to Portsmouth later this year.
She is expected to deploy on her first operational mission next year.
Meanwhile, her sister ship, HMS Queen Elizabeth is currently halfway through her maiden operational mission to the Far East.
She recently completed a stint in Japan, having carried out various operations and drills with allied nations in the Pacific.