Incredible Photos Of The HMS Prince Of Wales And Its F-35Bs Under The Aurora Borealis

HMS Prince of Wales
An F-35B embarked on HMS Prince of Wales under the Aurora Borealis, also known as Northern Lights. (Photo: Crown Copyright)

The HMS Prince of Wales Carrier Strike Group is currently taking part in Exercise Steadfast Defender 2024.

From Feb. 24 to Mar. 4, the HMS Prince of Wales aircraft carrier took part in the UK-led exercise Joint Warrior 24-1 held in the North Sea and Norwegian Sea, as part of the larger Steadfast Defender 2024 exercise. During this exercise, the ship led for the first time the United Kingdom’s Carrier Strike Group, which also included ships from four NATO countries.

At the end of the exercise, the official social media accounts of the CSG released some incredible photos shot as the ships and its crews were treated to an impressive display of Aurora Borealis, also known as Northern Lights. Aurora (“Aurora Borealis” or “Northern Lights” in the northern hemisphere and “Aurora Australis” or “Southern Lights” in the southern one) is a natural light display caused by the collision of solar wind and magnetospheric charged particles with the high altitude atmosphere (thermosphere).

Steadfast Defender 24 is NATO’s largest military exercise since the Cold War, involving 90,000 troops from all 31 NATO Allies and Invitee Sweden. The exercise, which stretches from January to May, is split into two overlapping parts, with each including a range of associated exercises hosted by different countries, such as Joint Warrior 24-1.

Part 1 focuses on transatlantic reinforcement, which is the strategic deployment of North American forces across the Atlantic to continental Europe. This phase includes maritime live exercises and amphibious assault training in the North Atlantic and Arctic seas. Part 2 focuses on multi-domain exercises across Europe – demonstrating NATO, national and multinational military capabilities. This phase will also test the rapid deployment of troops and equipment across borders within the Alliance.

The aircraft carrier under the Northern Lights. (Photo: Crown Copyright)

According to NATO, Steadfast Defender 24 sees the involvement of over 80 aircraft assets, over 50 ships, 1,100 combat vehicles (including 166 tanks, 533 infantry fighting vehicles and 417 armoured personnel carriers), in addition to the already mentioned 90,000 troops. The last exercise on a similar scale was Reforger 88 (the word “ReForGer” stood for “Return of Forces to Germany”), with 125,000 participating personnel.

The exercise marks a historic moment for NATO, showcasing transatlantic unity, strength, and determination in the face of evolving security challenges. In fact, following Russia’s full-scale invasion of Ukraine in 2022, Allies have further strengthened NATO’s deterrence and defence, creating the most comprehensive defence plans since the end of the Cold War, with the Alliance also increasing in size with new countries joining. Steadfast Defender 24 is the first large-scale NATO exercise to put these new defence plans into action, according to the press statements.

About Stefano D'Urso
Stefano D'Urso is a freelance journalist and contributor to TheAviationist based in Lecce, Italy. A graduate in Industral Engineering he's also studying to achieve a Master Degree in Aerospace Engineering. Electronic Warfare, Loitering Munitions and OSINT techniques applied to the world of military operations and current conflicts are among his areas of expertise.