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Britsh Navy commissioning day for HMS Prince of Wales

HMS Prince of Wales (R09) is the second Queen Elizabeth-class aircraft carrier and was officially commissioned into the Royal Navy Fleet on Tuesday 10 December 2019 at Victory Jetty, HMNB Portsmouth. This is the largest warship ever built for the nation.

Britsh Navy commissioning day for HMS Prince of Wales 925 001 HMS Queen Elizabeth alongside HMS Prince of Wales Royal Navy in Portsmouth for the first time (Picture source: British Royal Navy)

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 seventh Royal Navy ship to have the name HMS Prince of Wales. Construction of the ship began in 2011 at Rosyth Dockyard and ended with the 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.

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. 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.

Queen Elizabeth-class aircraft carrier has a displacement of 65,000 tonnes, a total length of 284 meters with an overall beam of 73 meters. The aircraft carrier can reach the top speed of 25 knots with a maximum range of 10,000 nautical miles and is equipped with Phalanx CIWS 30 mm multiple barrels rotating cannon to counter asymmetric threats.

The carrier is powered by four diesel engines and two gas turbines, run by the 170-strong marine engineering department. They are part of a core ship’s company of about 700 which can swell to more than double that with the addition of personnel from Naval Air Squadrons and Royal Marines.

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. Prince of Wales was formally named in September 2017. Her first seagoing commanding officer will be Captain Stephen Moorhouse. As of July 2019, her ship captain is Captain Darren Houston.

More than 10,000 people across the UK have contributed to the delivery of the ship as part of the Aircraft Carrier Alliance, building on the experience they gained in constructing and operating HMS Queen Elizabeth.

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. The ship was formally commissioned into the Royal Navy at a ceremony in Portsmouth on 10 December 2019.