Britain’s biggest warship is today ready to resume her duties at sea. After nine months undergoing engineering repairs and receiving significant capability enhancements to support her future tasking, aircraft carrier HMS Prince of Wales moved out of dry dock at Rosyth and into the River Forth. Once at anchor and in deeper water, the ship’s team will prove machinery and bring her systems to life – before sailing under the iconic Forth Bridges on her way to Portsmouth. The carrier will then build on her previous successes including acting as NATO’s command ship and leading the Maritime High Readiness Force in the Arctic, before she takes over from HMS Queen Elizabeth as the nation’s flagship towards the end of 2024.
Captain Richard Hewitt, HMS Prince of Wales’ Commanding Officer, praised the efforts of all who sought to return the carrier to front-line duties again, not least his 750-strong ship’s company, who have remained with the carrier throughout. “We are returning HMS Prince of Wales to operations as the most advanced warship ever built for the Royal Navy. This year we will be operating F-35s, V-22 Ospreys, drones and the RN Merlin helicopters – pushing the boundaries of naval aviation and UK Carrier Strike capability as we progress towards a global deployment in 2025. Our sailors are paramount to ensuring our return to operations. They have approached the task of getting us back to sea with the remarkable ethos that I have come to expect from them. They are a credit to the ship and the Royal Navy.”
Commander Helen Jones, the carrier’s Commander Marine Engineering, said: “The team on board have risen to the challenge of returning this ship to sea and we are looking forward to testing the systems and returning to operations for the Royal Navy.”
Sean Donaldson, Managing Director of Babcock’s Rosyth facility where the work has been carried out, added: “We are proud to have worked alongside the ship’s company of HMS Prince of Wales and the MOD’s Defence Equipment and Support organisation to ready the ship for operations. Through our 10-year maintenance agreement with the MOD for the Queen Elizabeth class aircraft carriers, we make their mission, our mission and we’re by their side enabling them to fulfil their duty. Our Rosyth facility is one of the UK’s most advanced waterside manufacturing and repair facilities and we have an expert team and world-class infrastructure ready to support customers whenever required.”
The ship’s engineering departments have worked side-by-side with engineers from industry, led by Babcock who operate the facility at Rosyth, to fix the propeller shafts alongside BAE Systems, who have also been carrying out previously-planned capability upgrade works. Throughout her time in Scotland the Ship’s Company have been maintaining their training levels either aboard HMS Prince of Wales, or by making use of training simulators ashore such as at HMS Sultan and HMS Collingwood. They have also supported recruitment and Science, Technology, Engineering and Maths (STEM) events in the area, hosted NATO delegates and VIPs, taken part in civic events including Remembrance Parades in Edinburgh and Liverpool, Freedom of the City in Bristol, and assisted Border Force personnel during strikes over Christmas and Easter. Once the ship has completed her propulsion trials, she will bring her flight deck back to life before returning to Portsmouth to prepare for her autumn deployment to the U