THE HMS Prince of Wales made its first port outside of the UK on Tuesday morning, docking at Gibraltar.

The 65,000-tonne carrier left Portsmouth earlier this year and has since been sailing the south coast of England. It is 70 metres wide, 280 metres long and weighs 65,000, has enough space for three football pitches and can carry 700 crew members and 40 helicopters.

For many of the sailors on the ship, Gibraltar is their first shore excursion, after an intense period of operational sea training. 

Susan Stobie, one of the latest crew members to join the HMS Prince of Wales has been enjoying the 4-day stopover in Gibraltar: “This is my first trip outside the UK with the Royal Navy and it will be a good opportunity for the crew to relax after a busy period at sea.”

Over the last few months, the ship has been preparing to operate as an aircraft carrier, working with the Apache attack helicopters of the Army Air Corps 656 Squadron (Army Air Corps 656 Squadron) and the Wildcat maritime attack helicopters of the 825 Naval Air Squadron (825 Naval Air Squadron). 

Both the helicopters and the ship work together to train military members on air operations. 

For Captain Darren Houston, commanding officer of HMS Prince of Wales, the trip to Gibraltar is particularly important as he will hand over command of the ship to Captain Stephen Higham.

“This is another moment in history for the ship and my sailors,” said Captain Houston.

“Europe’s leading contributor to NATO, the UK Carrier Strike Group, will form a vital component of the UK contribution to the North Atlantic Treaty Organisation (NATO) Readiness Initiative. HMS Prince of Wales will directly contribute to the safety and security of the UK and our Allies, through NATO.”

Recently, the HMS Prince of Wales was reunited with its twin ship, the HMS Queen Elizabeth, and the two sailed alongside each other.

For the first time, the vessels have been deployed on the same mission, and with the newly learnt skills will offer ‘significant contribution to NATO’s defence and deterrence’.

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