HMS Prince of Wales: What does it mean if Royal Navy Queen Elizabeth-class carrier is mothballed?

RUMOURS that HMS Prince of Wales could be mothballed resurfaced in Parliament this week. 

There have long been claims that the Queen Elizabeth-class aircraft carrier, which is due to arrive in Portsmouth in 2019, could be mothballed to save cash. 

The naming ceremony of aircraft carrier HMS Prince of Wales at the Royal Dockyard in Rosyth in 2017. Picture: Andrew Milligan/PA Wire

The naming ceremony of aircraft carrier HMS Prince of Wales at the Royal Dockyard in Rosyth in 2017. Picture: Andrew Milligan/PA Wire

These rumours that ‘sources’ within the Treasury were still considering ‘mothballing’ HMS Prince of Wales resurfaced this week. 

With MPs discussing them in Parliament yesterday. 

READ MORE: Rumours resurface HMS Prince of Wales could be mothballed as MPs brand the Treasury the biggest threat to the Royal Navy

But what does it mean if a ship is mothballed? Here’s what you need to know: 

What is mothballing? 

In naval terms if a ship is mothballed it means that it is partially or fully decommissioned and the ships become part of what is known as the reserve fleet. 

During the 18th Century it was known as a ship being ‘laid up in ordinary’. 

These ships can then be recalled to active duty if needed.

Or sometimes the ships can be sold off like the HMS Ocean was to Brazil in 2018. 

What would happen to HMS Prince of Wales if it was mothballed? 

She would be tied up at a naval base and it is likely that she would be modified to prevent her from rusting. 

Various parts and weapons could be placed in storage to keep them safe in the event that she was reactivated. 

Would HMS Prince of Wales keep her crew if mothballed? 

In the very unlikely event that the Queen Elizabeth class carrier was mothballed she would probably just keep a skeleton crew. 

This crew would work to ensure that she stayed in a somewhat usable condition, with bilge pumps needing to be regularly run which helps to reduce the corrosion of their steel. 

It keeps the ship from foundering at their moorings. 

READ MORE: Royal Navy appoints new captain for £3.1bn HMS Prince of Wales

What did MPs say about HMS Prince of Wales? 

While the rumours were not directly addressed in Parliament, during a debate this week, armed forces minister Mark Lancaster MP put his confidence behind the carrier. 

He told MPs: ‘Once our Queen Elizabeth-class carriers, including HMS Prince of Wales when accepted at the end of the year, become fully operational—we have already highlighted that timeframe—the United Kingdom will maintain a carrier ready to deploy at very high readiness, that is, within five days.

‘The new capability will enable the UK to make an unparalleled European contribution to NATO, the cornerstone of our defence policy ‘Indeed, carrier strike is “international by design”, with the convening power of the Queen Elizabeth-class carriers already evident.’