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The UK Royal Navy (RN) aircraft carrier HMS Prince of Wales has arrived in Norway to lead a NATO carrier strike group participating in the NATO exercise ‘Steadfast Defender’, the UK Ministry of Defence’s Defence Equipment & Support (DE&S) organisation announced on 23 February 2024.

HMS Prince of Wales departed Portmouth in the UK on 12 February, deploying at short notice after the RN carrier HMS Queen Elizabeth, which was originally supposed to lead the carrier group, suffered an issue with one of its propeller shafts.

HMS Prince of Wales had previously suffered a malfunction with a coupling on its starboard propeller in August 2022, breaking down off the Isle of Wight while en route to the United States for an exercise.

During ‘Steadfast Defender’, NATO’s largest exercise since the Cold War, HMS Prince of Wales is leading a carrier strike group consisting of the RN Type 23 frigate HMS Portland, the Royal Fleet Auxiliary Tide-class tankers RFA Tideforce and RFA Tidespring, the Royal Canadian Navy Halifax-class frigate HMCS Charlottetown, the Spanish Navy Alvaro de Bazan-class air defence frigate SNS Cristobal Colon and the Royal Danish Navy Iver Huitfeldt-class frigate HMDS Niels Juel.

During ‘Steadfast Defender’ NATO forces will be exercising across multiple regions and in multiple domains (maritime, land, air, space, and cyber). The vast scale of the exercise will occur over several months and thousands of kilometres and will involve tens of thousands of NATO troops.

The NATO carrier strike group for NATO exercise ‘Steadfast Defender’. Viewed from the front: HMS Prince of Wales, followed by (from left to right) HMS Portland, RFA Tidesurge, and HMCS Charlottetown in the second row and SNS Cristobal Colon, RFA Tidespring and HMDS Niels Juel in the third row. (Photo: Crown Copyright)