Royal Navy's leaky aircraft carrier HMS Prince of Wales will be fixed 'by May', minister insists

BRITAIN’S leaky £3.2bn aircraft carrier HMS Prince of Wales will be ready to return to ‘operations by May’, a defence minister has confirmed.

Friday, 26th March 2021, 12:01 pm
Updated Friday, 26th March 2021, 12:10 pm

The 65,000-tonne warship has been stranded alongside at Portsmouth Naval Base following a major flood last year, which caused £3.3m worth of damage.

The embarrassing gaffe happened in October when a faulty fire system unleashed thousands of gallons of water into an engine room in the huge vessel, wrecking critical electrical systems.

The damage was so severe, plans for the carrier to sail to America for training were scrapped as top brass ordered the carrier to stay in Portsmouth for months.

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HMS Wales pictured during a visit to Liverpool in February 2020 and, inset, the flooded compartment of the ship's engine room in October.

But today armed forces minister James Heappey has confirmed that the 920ft warship will be back in operation within the next few weeks.

‘I can confirm that HMS Prince of Wales will be ready for her planned return to operations by May 2021, when she will undertake activities in UK waters prior to her commencing Nato Command duties in 2022,’ the minster said in a written response to a parliamentary question.

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As previously reported, efforts to repair the flooding damage and fix defects to prevent future leaks on both Queen Elizabeth-class aircraft carriers are set to cost £5.5m.

Shadow armed forces minister Stephen Morgan had demanded the government make repairing Prince of Wales a ‘priority’.

‘Any delay to repairs for HMS Prince of Wales could pose a risk to UK defence capabilities,’ the Portsmouth South MP warned. ‘These repairs must be prioritised to avoid any such risk and government must get her fully operational as quickly as possible.’

News of the ship’s repair came as her sister vessel, HMS Queen Elizabeth, returned to Portsmouth on Monday following a three-week stint at sea in Scotland.

The aircraft carrier, which is the Royal Navy’s flagship, is on track to deploy on her maiden operational mission in May.

She is expected to travel to the Mediterranean, Gulf and Indo-Pacific.

Her deployment will see her spearheading ‘Europe’s most powerful’ naval task group, made up of two Type 45 destroyers, two frigates, support vessels from the Royal Fleet Auxiliary and a US Navy destroyer.

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