British aircraft carrier HMS Prince of Wales is to enter Portsmouth for the first time on Saturday. The Queen Elizabeth-class vessel is due to arrive during the afternoon, shortly after a forecasted break of sunshine through clouds. Britain’s latest aircraft carrier set sail from Rosyth dockyard to begin sea trials in September.
The ship, which is 280 metres long and weighs 65,000 tonnes, is expected to commission into the Royal Navy in 2020. The £3.1 billion vessel is due to pass the Round Tower on Saturday at around 13:45 UK time. Prince of Wales has begun sea trials, including speed and propulsion tests, and other capabilities.
In September, a Merlin helicopter became the first aircraft to land on HMS Prince of Wales and in the last couple of weeks, the carrier has trialled a new, green waste system. Prince of Wales’ sister ship, HMS Queen Elizabeth, recently went through flight trials with British F-35B aircraft. This is the Royal Navy’s second Queen-Elizabeth class aircraft carrier as she gets ready for front-line duties around the world – one of the most powerful surface warships ever constructed in the United Kingdom.
Like her sister ship, HMS Queen Elizabeth, the size of HMSPWLS is awe-inspiring – she can embark 36 F-35B fast jets and four Merlin Helicopters.
Portsmouth Naval Base has been given an upgrade ready for the warship’s arrival which includes strengthening and modernising the port’s 1990’s Victory Jetty at a cost of £30 million. The ship’s namesake, Charles, Prince of Wales, unveiled the aircraft carrier to the public in September 2019 at a naming ceremony which he attended with his wife Camilla, Duchess of Cornwall.
All The Gen About HMS Prince Of Wales
HMS Prince Of Wales cost £3 billion to design and build by the Aircraft Carrier Alliance (ACA) – an integrated team formed from Babcock, BAE Systems, Thales UK and the Ministry of Defence, which acts as both partner and client. The team is responsible for delivering the Queen Elizabeth class ships to time and cost.
Tests and Trials
The aircraft carrier was put through sea trials in October 2019 in the Moray Firth and the North Sea which included tests of its long-range radar – tracking two Typhoon jets that were flown out of RAF Lossiemouth. The second of the QE Class Aircraft carriers has been undertaking the sea trials since she left Rosyth. Her 700 plus crew are supplemented with contractors, and support staff for the trials. The carrier will increase the UK’s defence options to maintain carrier strike capability and means that one of the warships could be in maintenance with the other in any maritime operation.
The addition of HMS Prince Of Wales to the Royal Navy fleet is not only significant as the UK’s second aircraft carrier – it also enables the full-time employment of the rest of the Royal Navy’s and wider defence investment in capabilities.
The ship’s bridge team will have undertaken significant simulator training at HMS Collingwood and many of HMS Prince Of Wales’ crew have spent time on HMS Queen Elizabeth in order to prepare for bringing the second carrier alongside in Portsmouth. The trials have a number of achievements so far including the first helicopter landing – a Merlin Mk2 of 820 Naval Air Squadron, the first test of engines at full power, reaching a top speed of more than 25 knots, and the first test of the long-range radar. The warship has also made her first port visit to take on supplies, fuel and stores, in Invergordon, like her sister ship HMS Queen Elizabeth before her.
HMS Prince Of Wales
HMS Prince Of Wales, like her sister warship HMS Queen Elizabeth, is 280 metres long – about the length of two-and-a-half football pitches and longer than the length of the Houses of Parliament.
Her deck is 70 metres wide – about the width of the Pyramid main stage at Glastonbury Festival which could sit comfortably across the deck area of the ship.
65,000 tonnes – a ship’s weight is based on the amount of water its hull displaces at varying loads.
HMS Prince Of Wales has the latest generation of the Phalanx close-in weapon system. The Phalanx gun system is designed as an anti-aircraft and anti-missile defence and is radar-controlled, meaning it automatically detects, tracks and engages incoming threats and features a 20mm M61A1cannon with a rate of fire of up to 4,500 shots per minute. She is also equipped with a host of small-calibre guns and the first tests of these have already been carried out by the crew. These are the ship’s last line of defence against small fast craft, such as speedboats or jet skis.
Should an enemy vessel evade the warship’s powerful outer layer of the carrier’s defence, which include frigate destroyers, automated guns and decoys, the responsibility for protecting the ship falls to the marksmanship of the crew’s gunnery team.
HMS Prince Of Wales has two Rolls-Royce Marine Trent MT30 36 MW (48,000 hp) gas turbine engines and four Wärtsilä 38 marine diesel engines (4 × 16V38 11.6 MW or 15,600 hp). Rolls-Royce pioneered the use of aero-derivative gas turbines in marine propulsion, mainly for use in naval vessels and its MT30 gas turbines powering both HMS Prince of Wales and HMS Queen Elizabeth are the most powerful gas turbine engines in operation in the world. These engines deliver enough power to run about a thousand family cars, with enough energy to power a town of 25,000 people. The MT30 first entered service to power the US Navy’s first littoral combat ship, USS Freedom, in 2008.
The ship’s power generator is a low voltage electrical power distribution system which generates enough energy to power more than five thousand family homes and about 300,000 kettles. Collectively, the diesel generators produce about 40 per cent of the total power for the carrier – with the Rolls-Royce MT30 main engines generating the rest.
The ship’s steering gear integrates two steering gear rotary vane actuators (a form of mechanics for moving and controlling a mechanism or system, such as by opening a valve using hydraulic power). Operationally, the Rolls-Royce rotary vane design ensures full torque is available at all rudder angles – with two independent rudders to manoeuvre the carrier.
The propellers on HMS Prince of Wales each deliver around 50,000 horsepower. Rolls-Royce, which manufactured them at its facility in Sweden, says they are the highest power propeller ever produced by the company.
Each of the propellers is made from nickel aluminium bronze, 7m in diameter and weighs 33 tonnes.
Her anchors were built in Norfolk and are about three metres in height, weighing 12,837 and 12,456 kilograms. This is just one component of the ship, which was constructed across six shipyards around the country with more than 200 British companies supplying vital parts.
Crew And Facilities
The ship’s company is 700 personnel – plus contractors, and support staff during trials – each one of whom has to be catered for as they live at sea, during their duties and downtime. This will increase to about 1,600 once aircraft are on board.
The warship’s chefs serve up to 4,800 meals every day and she holds up to 45 days’ worth of food in her stores. There are four galleys and four large dining areas onboard. The food served up in those meals includes 72kgs each of meat and fruit, 200 litres of milk, 400 baguettes, 40 watermelons and 100 litres of soup. The pantries, fridges and freezers of the carrier are able to hold 12,000 tins of baked beans, enough to fill 38 bathtubs, and 66,000 sausages, which would stretch four miles if laid end-to-end. The ship’s company gets through that amount at a rate of more than 550ft per day – the height of Portsmouth’s Spinnaker Tower.
She also stores 28,800 rashers of bacon – which weighs about the same as a Porsche Panamera supercar.
The ship boasts a number of training areas and cardio gym which includes an area with spinning bikes, plus a weights room and a boxing training facility. For physical health and mental, spiritual and religious well-being, she also has a medical centre and a chapel.
Law And Order
The Royal Navy Police Department will have service officers on board and they manage a custody area for times when someone aboard needs to be detained.
She is able to carry 36 F35B Lightning II Jets, and up to 40 helicopters and this could include 12 Chinook or Merlin helicopters and eight Apache attack helicopters, for example.
Fast Jets And Capabilities
Like her sister aircraft carrier Big Lizzie, HMS Prince Of Wales is expected to embark F35B fast jets as the obvious choice for a carrier strike force but the Crowsnest maritime surveillance variant of the Merlin Helicopter and the new support ships RFA Tidespring class is expected to be called upon more with the second carrier.
The F35B trials on Queen Elizabeth have been successful with the highlight being the completion of rolling landings which significantly increases the landing weight of the F35 returning to the ship, meaning she can return with munitions and fuel which previously would have been jettisoned into the sea at great economic and ecological cost. Trials of HMS Prince of Wales have a number of achievements so far including the first helicopter landing – a Merlin Mk2 of 820 Naval Air Squadron, the first test of engines at full power, reaching a top speed of more than 25 knots, and the first test of the long-range radar.
All of the above is under the watchful command of HMS Prince of Wales’ commanding officer Captain Darren Houston. Captain Houston first joined HMS Queen Elizabeth in January 2016 as The Commander, helping to guide the ship through contractor sea trials and her first deployment to the United States, where trials of the F35B landing and takeoffs were carried out. He was then selected to command HMS Prince of Wales.
* All photographs courtesy of the MOD, Crown Copyright.