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HMS Prince of Wales departs for ‘Cold Response'

UK Royal Navy carrier HMS Prince of Wales sets sail for the Arctic in its first operational tasking as command ship of NATO's Maritime High Readiness Force. (UK Royal Navy/Crown Copyright)

The UK Royal Navy's (RN's) second Queen Elizabeth-class carrier (QEC), HMS Prince of Wales, has departed for the Arctic to start its first operational deployment as command ship for NATO's High Readiness Force (Maritime).

The carrier set sail from Portsmouth on 7 March and is bound for northern Norway where it will operate as NATO's command platform for Exercise ‘Cold Response'. This year's iteration of the biennial Norwegian-led NATO exercise, which starts on 14 March and will continue until early April, will feature 35,000 troops from 28 countries operating in a scenario to defend Norway and Europe's northern flank from a modern adversary. It will be the largest exercise to take place in Norway in 30 years.

The RN said the deployment to the region will be the first time one of the QEC carriers has operated in the exercise.

Prince of Wales assumed the role of command ship for the maritime component of NATO's High Readiness Force from the French Navy on 1 January, with a formal transfer of command ceremony being held onboard the carrier at Portsmouth Naval Base on 11 January. In this role, the carrier is required to be maintained at high readiness in support of NATO exercises and operations throughout 2022.

Groundwork for the new role included a year-long programme of training and preparation that concluded in September 2021. BAE Systems has also carried out upgrade work on the ship that included updating the information systems to enable an uplift in communications and interoperability with NATO forces.

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