WELCOME HOME: Thousands greet Britain’s biggest warship as HMS Prince of Wales completes US deployment

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Photographer: LPhot Belinda Alker - UK MOD © Crown copyright 2023 - MOD Crown Copyright News / Editorial Licence.

More than 2,000 friends and family welcomed home Britain’s biggest warship as HMS Prince of Wales returned to Portsmouth today (11 December 2023).

The aircraft carrier enjoyed the largest homecoming the Hampshire Naval Base has seen in several years as she completed a three-month deployment to the United States.

The ship left Portsmouth at the beginning of September for an autumn dedicated to expanding the boundaries of naval aviation.

Successful trials have been carried out with small pilotless drones, which could take the place of helicopters in delivering supplies to a task group, and much larger crewless aircraft, which could conduct long-range surveillance or strike missions in the future.

Royal Navy sailors’ wave as they return home from Westlant 23. Photographer: LPhot Finn Stainer- Hutchins – UK MOD © Crown copyright 2023 – MOD Crown Copyright News / Editorial Licence.

Extensive trials have been conducted with the US Marine Corps and F-35 Lightning jets which mean in future the stealth fighters can be launched on more sorties, more quickly, with a heavier payload – weapons or fuel – in worse weather conditions if required.

The carrier’s flight deck – which has never been busier – has also frequently hosted US Marine Corps Osprey tilt-rotor aircraft and a series of gunships and general-purpose helicopters to maximise the ability of the two allies’ military forces to operate seamlessly together.

65,000-tonne warship HMS Prince of Wales. Photographer: LPhot Corbett – UK MOD © Crown copyright

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