The gray outline of a Marine V-22 Osprey falls from the sky and takes up position next to the flight deck of Britain’s largest aircraft carrier.
With the observer hanging from the open door, the American test pilot turns the tail of the plane and lowers it vertically until it lands in the rear corner of HMS Prince of Wales.
The flight deck already shows scorch marks from dozens of F-35 landings after weeks of testing.
The day before, the Mojave unmanned aerial vehicle, the largest drone ever to fly from a European vessel, had taken off and landed.
This is the future of naval warfare. Two allies with interchangeable equipment working together to expand their reach and capabilities.
HMS Prince of Wales is the Royal Navy’s newest aircraft carrier and its largest warship. He has been on the US east coast since September and is training with American aircrew
An American MV-22 Osprey from Test Squadron HX-21 lands on the flight deck thanks to its unique tilt-rotor design. All tests are part of expanding the capabilities of the Royal Navy
“As we head towards the INDOPACOM area, where we’re talking about a huge space due to the geography and the scope of these resources… the utility of these airframes is enormous,” Captain Richard Hewitt told DailyMail.com. , using the acronym for Indo-Pacific.
For two decades, Western combat forces have focused on fighting insurgents on the mountainsides of Afghanistan or scattered across dusty villages in the Middle East.
Today, China and its strenuous efforts to increase its influence in the Indian Ocean and the Western Pacific are increasingly in the spotlight.
The Prince of Wales will soon be a key part of this geopolitical game.
Next year it will take over from its sister ship, HMS Queen Elizabeth, as the UK’s “very high alert” aircraft carrier. He is expected to lead an aircraft carrier strike in the region a year later.
He has been on the US east coast since September, working with American test pilots.
Some of the most exciting moments came when the F-35s were operating in “beast mode” – loading 22,000 pounds of destructive power, including air-to-air and air-to-ground missiles.
They performed their first “rolling” landing, slowly approaching the flight deck to land rather than using their ability to hover next to the ship before descending vertically.
This means they can return to the carrier with a heavier load, rather than discarding unused fuel or expensive ammunition.
Captain Richard Hewitt said it was a tribute to the ship’s owner for cooperating with US forces in the North Atlantic so soon after leaving dry dock
The unique shape of the Osprey is easily recognizable. It can take off vertically like a helicopter, then tilt its rotors forward and fly like a fixed-wing plane
A crew member watches as the Osprey approaches the flight deck
HMS Prince of Wales has two “islands”. The air traffic control tower is located at the stern, the bridge and captain’s quarters are at the front. The stern island can command the ship if the bridge is damaged
HMS Prince of Wales: the numbers behind the colossal aircraft carrier
Cost: $4 billion
Crew: 1600 when fully functional.
Dimensions: It is over 900 feet long and 230 feet wide
Speed: Top speed 28 miles per hour. It can cover 500 miles a day.
Fighters: 36 F35-B Lightning II aircraft recovered from the pit in 60 seconds
Weapons: Weapon system capable of firing 3,000 rounds per minute.
Radars: Long-range tracking of 1,000 air targets from 250 nautical miles; Medium-range radars can track a bullet-sized target from 12 miles away.
“It was flying sideways for us,” Hewitt said. “We told him to land with full fuel.
The Prince of Wales and her sister are the largest British warships in history. At 1,000 feet long (the crew of the Prince of Wales like to say that her crew is actually three feet longer than HMS Queen Elizabeth, even though she is built to the same design) and 230 feet wide, her central hangar can accommodate two Royal ships Navy frigates.
But the road to training about 100 miles from North Carolina wasn’t easy. For a decade in the 2010s, the world’s once largest navy had no aircraft carriers.
And the decision to spend nearly $8 billion on two Queen Elizabeth-class ships last year looked like a mistake. Five years after its launch, the Prince of Wales broke down on its way to a training exercise with the United States Navy.
A problem with the right propeller shaft kept the ship in dry dock for almost a year, generating false headlines that the ship was mothballed.
Now it is back and playing a key role in the Royal Navy’s efforts to punch above its weight as one of two platforms that can work closely with NATO allies.
Hewitt said that, like the combat aircraft it is designed to carry, it is a fifth-generation warship. The upper decks are designed to allow flight crews to reach the aircraft as efficiently as possible, while the lower decks are equipped with automated and autonomous systems that can be operated with a leaner crew.
The crew cabin is coated with paint that can withstand 2,700 F
Captain’s Challenge Coin Collection. HMS Prince of Wales arrived on US shores from September, working with American pilots
Ship firefighters take part in exercises. Training never ends on board the ship
Lieutenant James Holton is the ship’s second navigator. In the photo he is on the bridge
On Wednesday, it made history by launching the largest-ever drone from a European warship.
General Atomics’ Mojave is based on the Reaper drone. But it can land on a short runway in difficult conditions, even with a wingspan of 56 feet.
Rear Admiral James Parkin, who planned the test, said: “The success of this trial heralds a new dawn in the way naval aviation is conducted and represents another exciting step in the evolution of the Royal Navy’s carrier strike group into a mixed crewed and uncrewed group.” combat power.
For the ship’s crew, the highlight was the opportunity to watch fully loaded F-35s enter and depart in “beast” mode.
On the bridge, Lieutenant James Holton, the second navigator, said, “I hate to say it, but everyone was humming the tune to ‘Top Gun.’ It was really worth seeing.
Ahead of him, an electronic display showed a gentle wind blowing off the port side. The quartermaster sat at the central control panel and made minor adjustments to keep the 65,000-ton ship on course and ensure steady conditions for the Osprey to land.
“Check quarters,” called the first officer of the watch, standing in his usual place in the middle of the bridge.
“The port is clean,” is the response from one side, which is reflected by the observer on the other.
The Osprey, with twin wings and unique tilting rotors pointing upwards for maximum lift, landed on the deck shortly thereafter.
This is Cmdr. Richie Welsh’s responsibilities for ensuring that the U.S. Marine Corps Osprey can be safely and efficiently moved around the hangar so that maintenance crews can do their jobs
A Royal Navy Wildcat helicopter maneuvers through the expansive hangar, past a parking Merlin aircraft on the left. The space is so large that two frigates could fit in it
The final test was to be the next day: How to park!
In the darkness of the cavernous hangar below, Cmdr. Richie Welsh handled tabletop planning and tours.
The final step would be to bring the Osprey down the huge elevator to the plane and move it around to make sure it actually fits where it should.
It transforms the aircraft carrier from a “lily pad” where planes simply hop on and off, to serving as a base for U.S. Osprey squadrons.
“It will give us the opportunity to make sure it fits all the services necessary to maintain them,” he said.