UK warship HMS Prince of Wales breakdown could scupper US exercises

Rear admiral says HMS Prince of Wales likely to need repairs that 'may impact its programme'

HMS Prince of Wales returning to the Solent off Portsmouth, Hampshire. PA
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The British Royal Navy’s HMS Prince of Wales warship has a propeller fault that could force it to miss landmark military exercises with the US.

A “mechanical fault was discovered with the starboard shaft” shortly after the aircraft carrier set sail on a transatlantic voyage, said Rear Admiral Steve Moorhouse.

HMS Prince of Wales is the pride of the British navy, its biggest warship. It became operational only last year. But it barely made it out of the dock in Portsmouth, breaking down near the Isle of Wight.

“I've been to the ship today to see for myself what the issue is and how we in the Royal Navy can work together to make sure the ship can successfully return to her tasking,” said Rear Admiral Moorhouse, the director of Force Generation, which is responsible for making sure Royal Navy ships are ready to be deployed.

“After the initial assessment, it's likely that the fault will require repairs which may impact the ship's programme.

“The ship is now moving to a more sheltered anchorage for further inspection and then we'll be able to provide further comment on the nature of the issue and the impact to her current schedule.

“We've reacted quickly to the emergent defect and are working closely with industry partners to resolve this as soon as we can.

“Rest assured, the Royal Navy continues to meet its commitments to deliver operations and to keep the UK, our partners and allies safe.”

The Prince of Wales may now miss important flight trials with F-35B Lightning jets off the US coast.

The departure of the Nato flagship had already been delayed from Friday because of a technical problem, although it is not known if the incidents were related.

Shortly after the 65,000-tonne ship sailed on Saturday, the mechanical fault was discovered with the starboard shaft.

The carrier languished about five miles from Shanklin, Isle of Wight, before limping back to Stokes Bay at Gosport, Hampshire, travelling at a rate of four knots, accompanied by tugs for the return journey to calmer waters.

It is understood that anchoring at the sheltered bay near Portsmouth will allow divers to assess the damaged shaft.

Specialist website Navy Lookout said a photograph of the carrier leaving Portsmouth showed a wake only on the port side, suggesting a problem with the other propeller shaft.

It added that unless the problem can be resolved at sea the warship might need to go into dry dock at Rosyth, Scotland, months before a planned inspection next year.

The carrier had been given a colourful send-off as it departed on Saturday afternoon and passed thousands of music-lovers at the Victorious Festival on Southsea Common in Portsmouth.

Pop group the Sugababes were in the middle of their set when the giant ship sailed past with the crew lining the flight deck to get a view of the festival.

The warship left Portsmouth on what the Royal Navy called a landmark mission to “shape the future of stealth jet and drone operations off the coast of North America and in the Caribbean”.

It was to cross the Atlantic with its task group for port stops in New York, Halifax in Canada and the Caribbean. The task group was to work closely with US allies, operating F-35B jets and uncrewed systems.

The warship was due to work alongside frigate HMS Richmond, tanker RFA Tideforce and an air group of helicopters and drones, before being joined by F-35B stealth fighters after arriving in North America.

The visit was expected to build on the close collaboration between the US Navy, Marine Corps and Royal Navy.

Updated: August 30, 2022, 8:16 AM