The £3bn HMS Prince of Wales has been in a dry dock since October 12 after it broke down in August. Repairs on the starboard propeller shaft were due to be completed over the next few weeks.
But the Daily Express can reveal the port-side shaft will also need to be repaired as a “similar” fault has been identified. And Navy chiefs are now considering delaying the aircraft carrier’s departure from Rosyth.
And Navy chiefs are now considering delaying the aircraft carrier’s departure from Rosyth. This could mean plans are shifted by several weeks.
Defense Minister Alex Chalk told Tory MP Mark Francois: “During the investigation into the cause of the defect, an issue was also identified with HMS Prince OF Wales port shaft, and to prevent a similar defect occurring, rectification of this issue is expected to be completed before she commences her operational program, as planned, in Autumn 2023.”
Engineers are trying to source all of the parts they need. If they are successful, they will be able to fix the portside shaft over the coming weeks.
Inspections found the 33-ton starboard propeller had malfunctioned, with a coupling holding it in place breaking.
A source said: “Options for the additional work are well underway but are dependent on part availability. Obviously, we want our carrier back as soon as possible.”
Former Armed Forces Minister Mark Francois told the Daily Express: “This is a £3billion warship so, to paraphrase Lady Bracknell, while damage to one propeller shaft is unfortunate, to damage two seems like carelessness.
“With a war underway in Ukraine, we urgently need to sort out the sadly recurrent engineering problems with HMS Prince of Wales, once and for all.”
The Royal Navy insisted it has taken “pre-emptive” action to avoid the warship breaking down while on an operation or exercise across the other side of the World.
Engineers also examined the HMS Queen Elizabeth’s propeller shafts to ensure she would not break down. No faults were identified.
Once the ship has been repaired, it will sail down to Portsmouth where it will be upgraded.
It can launch up to 40 aircraft, including F35B Lightning combat jets, Merlin helicopters and fixed-wing drones.
The Daily Express can also reveal tests with the F35B fighter jets will take place this Summer.
The aircraft carrier has been beset by issues. Less than a year after it began service in 2019, an accommodation block roof collapsed.
Months later, a major leak in the ship’s engine room saw a meter of water submerging electrical cabinets. Engineers had to assess miles of cables. From October 2020 to April 2021, the ship spent 193 days having £3.3 million of damage repaired.