HMS Prince of Wales departs Portsmouth to lead NATO task force in Arctic
The UK’s largest warship has left Portsmouth to lead a NATO task force to the Arctic for the biggest exercises in Norway for 30 years.
Aircraft carrier HMS Prince of Wales deploys in her role as NATO’s command ship to Exercise Cold Response, the large-scale Norwegian-led exercises which will see 35,000 troops from 28 nations operate together in the harshest environment.
Prince of Wales is responsible for leading NATO’s Maritime High Readiness Force – an international task group formed to deal with major global events – and deploys for the first time in that role to Cold Response.
Aboard the carrier are the most senior sea-going staff in the Royal Navy – Commander UK Strike Force, headed by Rear Admiral Mike Utley, who will lead a sizeable task force as part of a galvanized NATO effort for peace and stability in Europe.
Rear Admiral Utley said: “NATO is the cornerstone of the UK defence and our commitment to the alliance is absolute.
“It is a privilege to be the UK Maritime Component Commander as we participate in this Norwegian-led exercise.”
Prince of Wales will be at the head of a powerful maritime task force, which, alongside aircraft and land forces – including Royal Marines Commandos – will show how a unified multilateral force would defend Norway and Europe’s northern flank from a modern adversary.
Around the aircraft carrier will be a protective ring of steel made up of warships, aircraft, a nuclear-powered attack submarine and a Royal Fleet Auxiliary replenishment vessel. Together they will defend Prince of Wales against threats above, below and on the waves throughout her high north deployment.
It will be the first time one of the Royal Navy’s new Queen Elizabeth-class carriers has operated in the Arctic and it is a challenge the ship’s company is relishing.
Leading Airman (Aircraft Handler) Josh Thomason said: “I’m looking forward to operating in the extreme cold weather. We are prepared as a team to operate with different aircraft in these harsh conditions and are looking forward to the challenges this will bring.”
As Prince of Wales departs on her mission, Commanding Officer, Captain Steve Higham, said: “It is a source of pride for all our sailors to be working with the NATO staff under Rear Admiral Utley as the NATO Command Ship.
“As we sail to meet up with other NATO units taking part in Cold Response in Norway, the team in HMS Prince of Wales is ready to deliver as a Command Ship for NATO in the most challenging of environments.”