NAVY officials have remained tight-lipped over the delay to HMS Queen Elizabeth’s latest voyage at sea.
The 65,000-tonne aircraft carrier was due to sail from the city earlier this morning, a spokeswoman from the Royal Navy told The News yesterday afternoon.
As late as 8am today, another spokesman also confirmed plans for the warship to set sail were still going ahead.
However, minutes later the Senior Service called off the voyage. Officials at the Royal Navy have not yet provided a reason for the postponement.
Taking to Twitter via the Portsmouth Naval Base account, the navy said: ‘Local media reported @HMSQnlz will sail this morning based on info released to mariners. This is no longer the case. The ship will not be sailing.
‘Whilst we don’t discuss specific movements of ships we don’t want the public to be disappointed that they can’t view her departure.’
The news comes amid reports today that a sprinkler system in the 280m behemoth malfunctioned over the weekend.
Video footage recorded inside Queen Elizabeth on Sunday shows a huge jet of water gushing down into the ship’s expansive hangar space.
The system was shut down within minutes and the water was drained without causing any damage, officials confirmed.
Speaking to The Sun, a navy spokesman insisted the £3.1bn ship was not impacted by the incident, adding: ‘She remains on track with her trials programme.’
The warship is due to continue with tests at sea, this time undergoing rotary wing trials with helicopters landing on and taking off the vessel’s four-acre flight deck.
People from Portsmouth, who had lined the Hot Walls and Round Tower to catch a glimpse of Queen Elizabeth’s departure, have since told of their disappointment.
Corinne Willoughby, 62, of Copnor, was with her friend Sharon Murray, of Milton.
She said: ‘We’re obviously disappointed. We really wanted to see her go out.
‘Last time I watched her sail in I was in a wheelchair with a broken ankle. I was stuck behind the crowd and couldn’t see her.’
She added: ‘We came down today as a birthday present for Sharon.’
Sharon – who turns 56 on Friday – said: ‘It was a perfect day for it. I can’t see why she couldn’t go out. It’s a real shame.’
The Royal Navy said it would be releasing more details about the deployment delay later today.
The ship, once she sets sail, is expected to remain at sea for about two months.
She will deploy again towards the end of the year to America where she will undergo flight trials for the F-35b off the eastern coast of the US.
This is expected to take place in late October/early November.