The departure of the HMS Prince of Wales for NATO drills has been delayed, the UK Defense Ministry has said.
The HMS Prince of Wales has been unable to depart for the largest NATO exercise since the Cold War, the British Defense Ministry has said. This marks the second blunder involving a Royal Navy aircraft carrier within the space of one week.
Its sister ship, the HMS Queen Elizabeth, was initially slated to spearhead the Nordic Response 2024 drills, which would gather some 40 NATO warships off Norway’s coast in March and serve as the naval component of the US-led military bloc’s broader Steadfast Defender 2024 exercise. However, the carrier’s participation in the wargames was canceled at the last minute on February 4 after the discovery of a problem with the starboard propeller shaft coupling.
The HMS Prince of Wales was set to serve as the replacement for the HMS Queen Elizabeth, but was also unable to leave port within the scheduled time-frame.
On Sunday, onlookers gathered at Portsmouth Harbor to watch the £3 billion (around $3.8 billion) warship set sail. The harbor’s mouth had already been closed off to traffic in accordance with procedure, when it was announced that the carrier’s departure had been delayed.
The British Defense Ministry didn’t provide the reason for the decision, with its spokesman only saying that “the aircraft carrier HMS Prince of Wales is due to sail from Portsmouth soon, subject to suitable tide and weather conditions.”
The Times reported that there was a minor fuel leak aboard the carrier on Saturday night, but couldn’t say if the incident was connected to the delay in the ship’s departure.
The HMS Prince of Wales has been plagued by various technical problems since it was commissioned in 2019. The ship, which has a crew of 1,400 sailors and is capable of launching NATO’s latest F-35B multirole combat aircraft, suffered major flooding on two occasions in 2020.
The second flood filled the engine room with thousands of gallons of seawater and required 193 days of repairs, which cost $4 million.
In 2022, its propeller shaft broke down a day after the HMS Prince of Wales departed Portsmouth for the US. Naval officials reportedly blamed the incident on the crew forgetting to grease the shaft adequately.
READ MORE: One of UK’s ‘most powerful warships’ longer in repair than at sea – The Times
The Times reported in late 2022 that the HMS Prince of Wales has actually been spending more time docked for repairs than on duty since being put into service.
Image credit: Dane Wiedmann