Eight years after she was laid down – and two after her sister HMS Queen Elizabeth sailed from the very same site – the HMS Prince of Wales 65,000-tonne warship left the basin at Rosyth Dockyard on the Forth, ready to begin sea trials. When she passes beneath the three iconic Forth crossings – lowering her main mast to do so – and strikes out into the North Sea, it means the two largest warships ever built for the Royal Navy will be at sea simultaneously.
HMS Queen Elizabeth is currently in the North Atlantic preparing for operational training with UK F-35B Lightning jets for the first time – paving the way for front-line duties by Prince of Wales just a few years from now. At present, the ship’s company – currently 600 strong – are focusing on a successful spell of sea trials, having prepared for months, gradually bringing the many systems, sensors and items of machinery from the galley to the main engines into life.
They are joined for the trials by a team of 320 civilian contractors to monitor how the 280-metre-long leviathan performs and make any necessary adjustments. Captain Darren Houston, HMS Prince of Wales’ Commanding Officer, said it had taken a monumental effort by sailors, shipwrights, engineers, electricians, scientists and designers to ready the nation’s most advanced warship for her debut at sea.
“I am immensely proud of the professionalism and determination that my ship’s company have shown in preparing themselves and their ship for this historic day. Whether through working alongside our industrial partners to support the build and commissioning of key systems or training tirelessly to operate the ship and work as a team, the crew have demonstrated unfaltering dedication and resolve in the face of a multitude of challenges. We are looking forward to sea trials and the opportunity to test our new ship before heading to our new home base of Portsmouth to join our sister ship.”
Following her sea trials HMS Prince of Wales will sail for her Portsmouth where she is due to be formally commissioned in the presence of her Lady Sponsor, the Duchess of Cornwall, before the end of the year.