HMS Prince of Wales (R09)

HMS Prince of Wales (R09) is the second Queen Elizabeth-class aircraft carrier. Unlike most large aircraft carriers, Prince of Wales is not fitted with catapults and arrestor wires, and is instead designed to operate V/STOL aircraft; the ship is currently planned to carry up to 40 F-35B Lightning II stealth multirole fighters and Merlin helicopters for airborne early warning and anti-submarine warfare, although in surge conditions the class is capable of supporting 70+ F-35B.[10] The design emphasises flexibility, with accommodation for 250 Royal Marines and the ability to support them with attack helicopters and troop transports up to and larger than Chinook size.[11]

HMS Prince of Wales, September 2019
History
United Kingdom
Name: HMS Prince of Wales
Namesake: Prince of Wales
Owner: Aircraft Carrier Alliance
Operator: Royal Navy
Ordered: 20 May 2008
Builder: Aircraft Carrier Alliance
Launched: 21 December 2017
Sponsored by: The Duchess of Cornwall
Christened: 8 September 2017
Commissioned: 10 December 2019[1]
Homeport: HMNB Portsmouth
Identification:
Motto: Ich Dien ("I Serve")
Status: Active in service[1]
Badge:
General characteristics
Class and type: Queen Elizabeth-class aircraft carrier
Displacement: 65,000 tonnes (64,000 long tons; 72,000 short tons)[2]
Length: 284 m (932 ft)[3]
Beam:
  • 39 m (128 ft)(waterline)
  • 73 m (240 ft) overall
Draught: 11 metres[4]
Decks: 16,000 square metres
Speed: 25 knots (46 km/h)
Range: 10,000 nautical miles (19,000 km)
Capacity: 1,600
Troops: 250
Complement: 679
Sensors and
processing systems:
Armament:
  • Phalanx CIWS
  • 30 mm multiple barrel rotating cannon to counter asymmetric threats.[5]
Aircraft carried:
Aviation facilities:
  • Hangar below deck
  • Two aircraft lifts
  • Ski jump

The ship was initially planned to be either sold or mothballed due to budget cuts, but the government later decided to bring it into service. [12] Prince of Wales was formally named in September 2017.[13] Her first seagoing commanding officer was Captain Stephen Moorhouse.[14] As of July 2019, her ship captain is Captain Darren Houston.[15]

The completed Prince of Wales began sea trials in September 2019 and first arrived at her new home base of HMNB Portsmouth in November 2019.[16] The ship was formally commissioned into the Royal Navy at a ceremony in Portsmouth on 10 December 2019.[1] The commissioning date of HMS Prince of Wales (R09) also marked the 78th anniversary of the sinking of her predecessor which was lost in action alongside HMS Repulse in 1941. She is the eighth Royal Navy ship to have the name HMS Prince of Wales. Construction of the ship began in 2011 at Rosyth Dockyard and ended with launch on 21 December 2017. She was handed over to the Royal Navy in 2019, and will be fully ready for front-line duties around the globe from 2023.[17]

Design and construction

The original 2008 design envisaged flying F-35B Lightning II Short Take-Off and Vertical Landing (STOVL) jets from a ski-jump ramp. However, in May 2010, the government decided it would acquire the Catapult Assisted Take-Off But Arrested Recovery (CATOBAR) variant, the F-35C, and convert Prince of Wales to a CATOBAR configuration.

In May 2012, following a rise in costs associated with the CATOBAR conversion, the government announced that it would revert to its original plans of acquiring the F-35B variant and building Prince of Wales to its original STOVL configuration.[18]

Entry into service

In May 2010, the Strategic Defence and Security Review (SDSR) declared that the UK required only one aircraft carrier, but penalty clauses in the contract meant that cancelling the second aircraft carrier, Prince of Wales, would be more expensive than building it. The SDSR therefore directed that Prince of Wales would be built and then either mothballed or sold.[19]

In 2012, contrary to the decisions made in the SDSR, the Royal Navy published its yearbook, A Global Force 2012/13, which stated that: "both carriers are likely to be commissioned and may even be capable of operating together".[20]

Prince of Wales final assembly began on 9 September 2014, when hull blocks LB02 and LB03 were floated into 1 Dock of Rosyth dockyard, Scotland.[21]

During the 2014 NATO Summit in Wales, Prime Minister David Cameron announced that Prince of Wales would be brought into active service, rather than sold off or mothballed.[12] This was later confirmed in the government's 2015 Strategic Defence and Security Review.[22]

Prince of Wales was assembled at Rosyth from 52 blocks built by six shipyards around the UK. Construction began on 26 May 2011, with the first steel being cut at Govan shipyard by Liam Fox.[23] In April 2016, the ship was said to be around 80% structurally complete.[24]

On 1 September 2017 HMS Prince of Wales' most senior officer, Captain Ian Groom, confirmed that the carrier was now essential to fulfilling the Royal Navy's 'full carrier strike capability.'[25]

Prince of Wales was formally named on 8 September 2017 at Rosyth dockyard by The Duchess of Rothesay, the wife of the current Prince of Wales. On 21 December 2017, Prince Of Wales was floated out of Rosyth drydock #1 for the first time and manoeuvred to a nearby jetty for fitting-out and further systems integration.[26][13][27] A Merlin Mk2 helicopter landed and took off six times on her flight deck on 23 September 2019.[28] Under current plans, Prince of Wales will start sea trials in 2019 and be commissioned in late 2019[29][27][30] The ship left the fitting out basin at Rosyth for the first time on 20 September 2019; initially she remained anchored in the Firth of Forth, undertaking initial engine and system tests, and waiting for the tide to allow her to pass under the bridges crossing the firth.[31] HMS Prince of Wales sailed under the Firth of Forth bridges on 22 September 2019 and began sea trials.[32]

On 16 November 2019, HMS Prince of Wales arrived at her home base of Portsmouth for the first time, berthing at Princess Royal Jetty.[33]

Aircraft

The two ships of the Queen Elizabeth class are each expected to be capable of carrying forty aircraft, a maximum of thirty-six F-35s and four helicopters.[34] The 2010 SDSR anticipated the routine deployment of twelve F-35Bs, but a typical warload will be 24 F-35Bs and some helicopters.[35] These could be a Maritime Force Protection package of nine anti-submarine Merlin HM2 and five Merlin Crowsnest for airborne early warning; alternatively a Littoral Manoeuvre package could include a mix of Royal Navy Commando Helicopter Force Merlin HC4, Wildcat AH1, RAF Chinooks, and Army Air Corps Apaches.[35] As of September 2013 six landing spots are planned, but the deck could be marked out for the operation of ten medium helicopters at once, allowing the lift of a company of 250 troops.[35] The hangars are designed for CH-47 Chinook operations without blade folding and for the V-22 Osprey tiltrotor, whilst the aircraft lifts can accommodate two Chinooks with unfolded blades.[36]

Passenger/crew transfer boats

The two ships of the Queen Elizabeth class will each carry four PTBs made by Blyth-based company Alnmaritec.[37] Each 13.1 m (43 ft) long PTB carries 36 passengers and two crew to operate the vessel and is davit-launched. To enable the craft to fit into the docking area the navigation and radar masts are fitted with Linak actuators so that they can be lowered automatically from the command console. The enclosed cabin is heated and there is a set of heads forward.[38]

Weapons systems

Defensive weapons include the Phalanx Close-In Weapons System for anti-aircraft and anti-missile defence, and 30mm Automated Small Calibre Guns and Miniguns for use against fast attack craft.[5]

Name

The Queen Elizabeth-class carrier will be the eighth HMS Prince of Wales, named after the title traditionally granted to the heir apparent of the British monarch. The name was announced at the same time the sister ship Queen Elizabeth's name was announced.

The early decommissioning of HMS Ark Royal under the terms of the SDSR in 2010 and the subsequent loss of the name Ark Royal led to a campaign for one of the new aircraft carriers to receive it. In May 2011, reports surfaced that The Prince of Wales had been approached by a senior Royal Navy officer on the subject of changing the name of Prince of Wales to Ark Royal, a matter that the Prince of Wales was reportedly "pretty relaxed" about.[39]

Prince of Wales was formally named on 8 September 2017 at Rosyth dockyard by the Duchess of Rothesay.[13]

Affiliations

See also

References

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