Published 23 February 2024

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HMS Prince of Wales, the UK’s biggest warship, has arrived in Norway to lead a vital NATO exercise after teams from DE&S, the Royal Navy and industry worked round the clock to get her ready to sail in just seven days.

To put that in context, the normal time it takes to get a ship of this type ready for deployment is 30 days.

HMS Prince of Wales is leading an international task group in one of the most important military exercises in a generation, NATO’s Exercise Steadfast Defender.

HMS Queen Elizabeth had been scheduled to take part, however an issue with her propeller shaft coupling meant she had to go in for repairs.

That same weekend the enterprise across industry (BAE), Royal Navy and DE&S was mobilised to put together a one week plan to ensure HMS Prince of Wales could take her place leading Exercise Steadfast Defender as planned.

A combination of team work, fast thinking and swift decision making ensured the ship sailed on time to fulfil the UK’s NATO commitment.

Capt Duncan Humphery, Capital Ships Team Leader at DE&S, said:

“Across the week BAE, their contractors and Ship Staff all worked together to ensure that the seven-day work package was achieved.

“The ship was handed back to ship staff ready for basin trials on Saturday, as planned, and the Commanding Officer sailed her from Portsmouth on Monday February 12.”

He added:

“To turn her round to be available for the NATO exercises within seven days was a challenge Herculean in stature.”

HMS Prince of Wales will lead a carrier strike group of eight ships – four of them British, including frigate HMS Somerset and two Tide-class tankers from the Royal Fleet Auxiliary – supported by US, Spanish and Danish vessels.

They form one of the most potent naval forces of the exercise – an allied fleet of 40 vessels, drawn from more than two dozen nations, committed to the seagoing element of Steadfast Defender, which will take place off Norway’s Arctic coast from late February into March.

The carrier’s Logistics Officer, Lieutenant Commander Chris Barnett, said:

“In less than a week we brought onboard approximately 70,000 sailors’ days rations – £400,000 of food – with 450 pallets of stores and 30,000 toilet rolls; not to mention spare parts for F-35 Lightnings, Merlin and Wildcat helicopters, cold weather kit, and medical stores. It has been an amazing effort from all involved.

“We’re proud to be part of this enterprise and ensure we deliver capable platforms, with excellent availability that remain safe to operate for the Armed Forces.”