HMS Prince of Wales (R09) has been ordered as the second ship in the Queen Elizabeth-class of aircraft carriers to stock the British Royal Navy beginning in 2020 (the lead ship being HMS Queen Elizabeth). With the official defense contract in place on July 3rd, 2008, HMS Prince of Wales was formally ordered for construction on May 20th, 2008 and her keel was laid down on May 26th, 2011. Barring any project changes or budget cuts, HMS Prince of Wales will join her sister ship sometime in 2018, making her home port out of HMNB Portsmouth, her crew fighting under the motto of "Ich Dien" ("I Serve"). Construction of the various required component "blocks" is being headed by BAe Systems Surface Ships, Babcock Marine, A&P group and Cammell Laird and will ultimately involve some seven total shipyards. Budgetary concerns may leave HMS Queen Elizabeth as the only active ship in the class while HMS Prince of Wales may sit in an indefinite "readiness" status and be called upon is needed.
While the United States Navy continues its large-scale use of aircraft carriers around the world, shrinking military budgets after World War 2 saw limited use of such vessels in competing navies elsewhere - these navies to include that of the United Kingdom and the Soviet Union. The Royal Navy, therefore, relied on only a few active frontline aircraft carriers in operation at any one time. Their expertise in the use of carrier operations led to an impressive showing during its Falklands War entanglement with Argentina and helped to solidify the need for carriers in future Royal Navy inventory planning and doctrine. All told, the newer Queen Elizabeth-class of carriers will expertly broaden the scope and capability of the British Royal Navy, especially when paired with the latest in strike and helicopter aircraft such as the Lockheed F-35 Lightning II and the AgustaWestland Lynx Wildcat respectively.
In May of 1997, the incoming British government undertook a "Strategic Defense Review" evaluation of military inventories of major branches of service. This study served to verify the value of aircraft carriers for the Royal Navy's future deployments. The resulting agreement also shown that the Cold War-era Invincible-class aircraft carriers did not meet the concerns of the modern and near-future battlefields concerning warfare at sea and, in 1999, several design studies were requested from competing entities and a consensus was then agreed upon that yielded a formal design and competition winner for the expected lucrative defense contract.
HMS Prince of Wales was originally intended to be of a conventional design and layout with its island superstructure(s) offset to the right side of the large-area flight deck. It was to follow the more conventional angled deck carrier layout as opposed to a straight-line approach. However, in May of 2012, British authorities had announced that its design will follow the straight-line arrangement and that the government will be purchasing the STOVL variant of the Lockheed F-35B Lightning II multirole fighter. As such, take-off will be assisted by a ski-type ramp at the bow. A pair of hangar elevators will service the flight deck with its aircraft. One of these lifts will be located between the main bridge and the flight bridge island superstructures and the other aft of the flight bridge superstructure along the starboard-stern area of the vessel.
HMS Prince of Wales will be home to approximately 600 Royal Navy personnel including sailors, officers and flight crew. Total capacity in wartime may exceed double that if needed (as many as 1,450 personnel). When completed, HMS Prince of Wales is expected to be much larger than the Invincible-class carriers it replaces, putting her more in competition with the US Navy's Nimitz-class of nuclear-powered carriers. As such, HMS Prince of Wales and her sister, HMS Queen Elizabeth, will become the largest and technologically advanced warships ever constructed for the British Navy. Both are currently under construction as of this writing (November 2011).
Propulsion for HMS Prince of Wales will be conventional in nature unlike its American counterparts that rely highly on nuclear power. HMS Prince of Wales will instead rely on electric propulsion through a pair of Rolls-Royce Marine Trent MT30 series gas turbine generator systems yielding 48,000 horsepower tied to four Wartsila Diesel Generator units (2 x of 12,000 horsepower and 2 x of 15,000 horsepower). Total displacement for the vessel is expected to reach 72,300 short tons with a 932 foot running length, 240 foot beam and 36 foot beam. Top speed is listed at 25 knots in ideal conditions.
HMS Prince of Wales air wing will consist of a combination of fixed-wing and rotary-wing aircraft numbering approximately 40 to include the upcoming Lockheed F-35 Lightning II for multi-role strike and engagement duties. The rotary-win contingent is expected to include British AgustaWestland Lynx Wildcat medium and AgustaWestland Merlin heavy helicopters. Additionally, there will be support for Boeing Chinook tandem-rotor transport helicopters and the Apache attack helicopter as needed. The Royal Navy was initially set to receive the STOVL variant of the F-35 Lightning II ("F-35B") but reports state that this has since given way to procurement of the more conventional F-35C carried-based aircraft which can launch via catapult and be recovered via tow cable. All supported aircraft will be maintained and managed through an integrated below-deck hangar and twin-elevator lift system. Fixed-wing aircraft will launch via catapults at designated areas of the flight deck and recovery will be through conventional tow cables stretched across the aft portion of the deck. There will be enough area across the flight deck of the carrier that she will be able to stock multiple "ready-to-fly" aircraft along the starboard side for quick reaction.
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May 2008 - HMS Prince of Wales was officially ordered by the British government.
September 2017 - A christening ceremony took place for HMS Prince of Wales.
December 2017 - HMS Prince of Wales was formally launched from its holdings.
September 2019 - HMS Prince of Wales has left its berth at Rosyth shipyard in Scotland to begin its requisite sea trials phase.
December 2019 - HMS Prince of Wales has been formally commissioned, the ceremony taking place on December 10th, 2019.
August 2022 - The HMS Prince of Wales has broken down en route to the United States with "mechanical issues" being cited.
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