HMS Prince of Wales: The Royal Navy ship hitting the headlines after it broke down at sea

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Portsmouth-based HMS Prince of Wales has been hitting the national headlines after a fault saw her break down at sea – which resulted in her being taken to a dockyard for repairs.

She is the second Queen Elizabeth-class aircraft carrier of the Royal Navy and is designed to carry up to 48 F-35B Lightning II stealth multirole fighters and Merlin helicopters for airborne early warning and anti-submarine warfare.

She also has the ability to accommodate 250 Royal Marines and support them with attack helicopters and troop transports up to and larger than Chinook size. However things have not gone smoothly for the £3bn ship, sister to the Queen Elizabeth, and she has hit the national headlines for all the wrong reasons.

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Construction of the ship began in 2011 at Rosyth Dockyard in Scotland and ended with launch on December 21, 2017 before being handed over to the Royal Navy in 2019, however in May 2020, she experienced flooding which the Royal Navy described as ‘minor’. This was then followed by more significant flooding in October 2020 which caused damage to her electrical cabling. Prince of Wales departed Portsmouth Naval Base on sea trials in April 2021 and in October 2021, the Royal Navy declared the ship fully operational.

HMS Prince Of Wales preparing to enter Rosyth dock for repairs on October 11, 2022. Picture: Lisa FergusonHMS Prince Of Wales preparing to enter Rosyth dock for repairs on October 11, 2022. Picture: Lisa Ferguson
HMS Prince Of Wales preparing to enter Rosyth dock for repairs on October 11, 2022. Picture: Lisa Ferguson

However in August 2022, a steel coupling on the starboard propellor shaft fractured during the ship’s send-off from Portsmouth in August and she broke down near the Isle of Wight – with the Nato flagship on its way to undertake training exercises with the US Navy, the Royal Canadian Navy and United States Marine Corps – and it was towed back into Portsmouth Harbour.

She remained in place until October, when she was eventually taken to Rosyth in Scotland for repairs and in January, the Royal Navy confirmed the technical problems will keep the 65,000-tonne warship out of action until the spring, while the issues are fixed. Engineers reportedly found ‘elementary misalignment’ mistakes on both the starboard and portside shafts. A report into the faults with HMS Prince of Wales is due to be reported back to defence secretary Ben Wallace soon.

This week it emerged that fault with the propeller shafts on HMS Prince of Wales were discovered during sea trials in 2019, according to the Mail on Sunday. As previously reported in The News, VA Marshall said a full investigation is being carried out to figure out the root cause of the failure, with no further information being disclosed until ministers and the Ministry of Defence (MoD) are briefed. The committee asked to see the full report when it is released.

HMS Prince of Wales will return to Portsmouth in the spring for a pre-planned maintenance.