PLANS to continue sea trials of Britain’s biggest warship were put on the backburner after an issue with the ship’s firefighter sprinkler system.
Huge jets of water were blasted into HMS Queen Elizabeth’s hangar on Sunday after the system was accidentally triggered.
Navy officials said the misfiring sprinklers were quickly isolated, the water stopped and cleared – and that some damage was caused in the hangar but not to the rest of the 65,000-tonne leviathan.
The blow caused plans for the aircraft carrier to sail out of Portsmouth yesterday to be cancelled at the 11th hour.
However, the navy has insisted the incident will not hinder the ship’s next phase of rotary wing sea trials.
A spokesman said: ‘We can confirm that following a routine exercise alongside, the fire warning system was inadvertently triggered on-board HMS Queen Elizabeth and some sprays activated, but she remains on track with her trials programme.’
People from Portsmouth, who had lined the Hot Walls and Round Tower to witness Queen Elizabeth’s departure, said they were left disappointed.
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.’
Sharon added: ‘It was a perfect day for it. I can’t see why she couldn’t go out. It’s a real shame.’
It is understood the sprinklers were activated because of a computer systems glitch which is now being addressed.
The £3.1 billion behemoth was due to leave Portsmouth Naval Base between Tuesday and Friday, with yesterday having been the preferred date.
Once the sprinklers have been fixed, the warship will set sail for more than a month to continue with her tests.
The trials will involve helicopters taking off from and landing on the four-acre flight deck while at sea.
As part of the next batch of tests, the Royal Navy said there is also ‘an option’ for the aircraft carrier to visit Gibraltar.
Later this year, the UK’s F-35b, the world’s most advanced fighter jet, will undertake flight trials from the deck of the supercarrier while she is at sea off the east coast of the US.