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British Navy HMS Queen Elizabeth and HMS Prince of Wales aircraft carriers at sea together for the first time

Following the British-led multinational naval exercise, the UK’s two aircraft carriers, HMS Queen Elizabeth and HMS Prince of Wales were deployed at sea for the very first time.
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Russian Vyborg Shipyard laid the Purga ice class coastguard ship of project 23550 925 001 British Navy aircraft carriers HMS Queen Elizabeth and HMS Prince of Wales at sea together for the first time. (Picture source British Navy)

This naval exercise was designed to push the Carrier Strike Group to the limits and ensure its readiness for any situation during this year’s seven-month global deployment, Exercise Strike Warrior provided the largest and most demanding assessment it has faced so far.

The two-week exercise formed part of the wider military bi-annual exercise, Joint Warrior, where the Royal Navy, Royal Air Force, British Army and UK Strategic Command – alongside NATO and Australian partners – conducted land, cyber and space exercises.

The HMS Queen Elizabeth's state-of-the-art F-35 fighter jets conducted missile firings during the exercise, marking the first time British jets have done so at sea for 15 years.

HMS Queen Elizabeth is the lead ship of the Queen Elizabeth class of aircraft carriers. The ship began sea trials in June 2017, was commissioned on 7 December 2017 and entered into service with the Royal British Navy in 2020.

The HMS Queen Elizabeth aircraft carrier weighs 65,000 tonnes and can reach a top speed of 25 knots (46 km/h). She can carry up to 72 aircraft, with a maximum capacity of 36 F-35B fighter jets. The ship has a flight deck of 280 m long and 70 m wide.

The HMS Queen Elizabeth has a crew of about 700, increasing to 1,600 when a full complement of F-35B jets and naval helicopters are embarked.

The HMS Prince of Wales (R09) is the second Queen Elizabeth-class aircraft carrier. The ship was christened in September 2017 and commissionned in December 2019. 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 HMS Prince of Wales has a crew of 1,600 people 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.