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Britain’s biggest warship HMS Prince of Wales sets sail to lead largest Nato drills since Cold War as WW3 fears loom

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BRITAIN’S biggest warship has left Portsmouth for Exercise Steadfast Defender, Nato’s most ambitious drill since the Cold War.

HMS Prince of Wales‘ much-anticipated departure was originally scheduled for yesterday but was delayed at the last minute.

HMS Prince of Wales sets sail from Portsmouth on Monday to lead the largest Nato exercise since the Cold War

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HMS Prince of Wales sets sail from Portsmouth on Monday to lead the largest Nato exercise since the Cold WarCredit: PA

Nato’s upcoming Steadfast Defender exercise is its largest in decades, and is intended to test allied countries’ new defence plans and ability to quickly deploy forces.

It will take place off Norway’s Arctic coast from late February into March.

Supreme Allied Commander of Europe Army Gen Christopher Cavoli said Steadfast Defender “will be a clear demonstration of our unity, strength and determination to protect each other, our values and the rules-based international order”.

News of the warship’s departure comes amid warnings from Nato that Allied countries must be prepared for an all-out war with Russia.

And after UK Defence Secretary Grant Shapps claimed the world had entered a “pre-war” phase ahead of a possible World War Three.

The Ministry of Defence yesterday delayed HMS Prince of Wales’ departure for Nato’s multi-domain exercise – set to incorporate land, air, sea, cyber, and space operations – as families stood together at the Round Tower at the entrance to the harbour.

It said in a statement yesterday that the Royal Navy aircraft carrier would sail soon, “subject to suitable tide and weather conditions”.

The aircraft carrier indeed sailed for Norway today and is expected to lead a carrier strike group of eight ships – four of which are British – supported by US, Spanish, and Danish vessels.

Britain’s biggest warship returned to Portsmouth in December last year following a months-long deployment to the United States which involved sea and air trials and training with American F-35 jets.

HMS Queen Elizabeth was originally supposed to take part in Nato’s Steadfast Defender exercise, but had an issue with its propeller shaft.

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It was revealed that HMS Prince of Wales would take its place.

A Royal Navy spokesman explained what was next for the lead ship of the Queen Elizabeth class of aircraft carriers.

He said: “On completion of initial investigations, HMS Queen Elizabeth will sail for Rosyth in Scotland so any necessary repairs can be carried out in due course.

“The cause of the issue with HMS Queen Elizabeth is wear and tear of her starboard propeller shaft coupling.”

In 2022, HMS Prince of Wales also suffered a propeller shaft issue and broke down off the Isle of Wight.

HMS Queen Elizabeth was forced to sail to the US in its place as HMS Prince of Wales underwent nine months of repairs at Rosyth shipyard in Scotland.

Royal Navy aircraft carrier HMS Prince of Wales sets sail from Portsmouth

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Royal Navy aircraft carrier HMS Prince of Wales sets sail from PortsmouthCredit: PA
The aircraft carrier is taking the place of her sister, HMS Queen Elizabeth

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The aircraft carrier is taking the place of her sister, HMS Queen ElizabethCredit: PA

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