HMS Prince of Wales is now the command ship for NATO’s Response Force.
This role will see the vessel sailing to the Arctic, the Baltic and the Mediterranean Seas.
According to a Royal Navy statement:
“The Royal Navy today took charge of NATO’s most important task force with a ceremony aboard aircraft carrier HMS Prince of Wales in Portsmouth. For the next 12 months it is responsible for leading the alliance’s Maritime High Readiness Force – an international task group formed to deal with major global events.
The most senior sea-going staff in the Royal Navy – Commander UK Strike Force, headed by Rear Admiral Mike Utley – takes charge of the force, with HMS Prince of Wales serving as NATO Command Ship, ready to deploy in support of NATO exercises and operations throughout the year. Those will include major workouts for British and allied forces in the Arctic at the end of the winter, Baltic in the summer, and an extensive deployment to the Mediterranean in the autumn.
To mark the formal transfer of command from the French Navy, the NATO flag was raised aboard the carrier today during a 30-minute ceremony – shifted to the carrier’s aft hangar rather than the flight deck due to thick fog in Portsmouth – attended by defence attachés and military representatives from across the alliance.”
The Royal Navy assumed command of NATO’s Response Force from the French Marine Nationale on January 1st, 2022.
The NATO Response Force is a high readiness force comprising land, air, sea and special forces units capable of being deployed quickly on operations wherever needed.
Back in October, The Royal Navy said that a fortnight-long international exercise off the Scottish coast “put the stamp on two years of intensive training for the Portsmouth-based warship, 700-plus crew, the Royal Navy and RAF squadrons who will operate aircraft from her flight deck – including the fifth-generation F-35 Lightning stealth fighter – and thousands of military personnel and civilians who support and maintain the endeavour”.
“We have excitingly jumped the final hurdle and are now a fully-fledged strike carrier, ready at 30 days’ notice for operations around the globe,” said HMS Prince of Wales’ Commanding Officer Captain Steve Higham.
What will the ship do next?
The Royal Navy say that first up is leading naval involvement in Cold Response 22, “a large-scale Norwegian led NATO exercise which will be used to evaluate Rear Admiral Utley and his staff as the Commander of the NATO Response Force”.
“NATO is the cornerstone of the UK defence and our commitment to the alliance is absolute and it is a privilege to be the UK Maritime Component Commander moving into our vital role this year,” Admiral Utley stressed.
“The Royal Navy is global, modern, ready and well placed to support NATO in all its endeavours.”
As the year moves on, the staff will also help train and ready the Turkish Navy who will assume command of the NRF from the UK in 2023.