HMS Prince of Wales returns to base after training at sea

The Royal Navy aircraft carrier HMS Prince of Wales has returned to base in time for its crew to enjoy the bank holiday weekend.

Sunbathers and swimmers at the Hot Walls beach in Old Portsmouth waved home the giant ship as it sailed into Portsmouth Harbour.

The £3 billion warship set out from Portsmouth Naval Base on Sunday for a short period of sea training before returning to the Hampshire port on Thursday.

HMS Prince of Wales
Sunbathers welcome HMS Prince of Wales back to Portsmouth (Ben Mitchell/PA)

A Ministry of Defence spokesman said: “Following a successful period at sea, it was always planned that HMS Prince of Wales would return to Portsmouth on August 26 in order to restore ready for the next period at sea.

“It also allows the crew time with families over the bank holiday, ahead of a busy operational autumn period.”

The spokesman said the five-day period of training allowed the ship and its crew to conduct exercises as part of preparation for the vessel’s first operational deployment planned for 2022.

He added: “Having successfully completed Basic Operational Sea Training, the ship’s immediate focus is on proving her complex breadth of warfighting capabilities, enabling her to be a world-class command platform from which to lead future task group based operations.”

HMS Prince of Wales made its first overseas port visit to Gibraltar at the start of the summer.

It also met up with HMS Queen Elizabeth at sea for the first time and embarked its first F-35 Lightning jets.

The 65,000-tonne carrier was forced to stay in port for several months at the start of the year after suffering two leaks.

HMS Prince of Wales
The MoD said the ship and its crew have a ‘busy operational autumn period’ ahead (Ben Mitchell/PA)

The second leak occurred in October which forced it to postpone a trip to the US to exercise with F35B Lightning jets.

A video also emerged in May 2020 of water pouring through the ceiling into an accommodation area on board the Prince of Wales.

Figures released by the Government show £11 million was spent on maintenance for the Prince of Wales in the last year, with £2.5 million on repairs and £2 million on engineering supervision.

Its sister ship, the Navy’s flagship HMS Queen Elizabeth, is currently on its first operational deployment with the Carrier Strike Group to the Indo-Pacific region.