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Apache helicopters completes training on HMS Prince of Wales.

| 2021

According to information published by the Royal Navy on June 22, 2021, the Boeing AH-64 Apache helicopter in Britain’s arsenal has completed two weeks’ intensive training on the nation’s newest aircraft carrier HMS Prince of Wales.
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Russian Vyborg Shipyard laid the Purga ice class coastguard ship of project 23550 925 001 Boeing AH-64 Apache helicopter on the aircraft carrier HMS Prince of Wales (Picture source: Royal Navy)

Three gunships joined HMS Prince of Wales to allow the Army Air Corps’ fliers get their sea legs back – and give the Portsmouth-based warship a taste of the helicopter’s striking power.

The fearsome-looking aircraft joined the carrier before she departed her home base on her latest series of trials and training in the English and Bristol Channels.

The Army Air Corps maintains a specialist maritime Apache squadron, 656, with modified gunships equipped with floatation devices should one of the multi-million-pound helicopters having to ditch (thankfully they haven’t).

The emphasis of the squadron’s embarkation on the carrier was ensuring air and ground crew were used to operating at sea – and to train Prince of Wales’ air/air engineering departments in handling, moving, maintaining and launching/recovering the Apache as part of the carrier’s broader air group.

During the fortnight-long spell on the Portsmouth-based leviathan, 656 Squadron shared the flight deck with RAF Chinooks, Royal Navy Merlins and, briefly, the first F-35 Lightning jets to land/take-off from HMS Prince of Wales.

The Army Air Corps fliers landed and took off 161 times, qualified one new pilot for maritime operations by day/night, while eight more regained or maintained their currency.

Landings are made all the more challenging by the positioning of the helicopter’s two crew behind each other – rather than side-by-side in most cockpits. It means each crew member’s field of vision and reference points for safely landing are different.

The HMS Prince of Wales (R09) is the second Queen Elizabeth-class aircraft carrier. The ship was christened in September 2017 and commissionned in December 2019. The ship is currently planned to carry up to 40 F-35B Lightning II stealth multirole fighters and Merlin helicopters for airborne early warning and anti-submarine warfare, although in surge conditions the class is capable of supporting 70+ F-35B.

The HMS Prince of Wales has a crew of 1,600 people with accommodation for 250 Royal Marines and the ability to support them with attack helicopters and troop transports up to and larger than Chinook size.

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