Published On: Mon, Feb 5th, 2024
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Royal Navy’s £3.2bn warship sent to replace faulty carrier also plagued by problems | UK | News

The £3.2billion warship that is replacing the HMS Queen Elizabeth for a key NATO exercise was itself plagued by setbacks before it set sail. The HMS Prince of Wales is being geared up to take part in a European exercise after a propeller fault rendered the Queen Elizabeth unable to take part.

However, this frigate itself has suffered from propeller issues, and was sidelined for several months as a result.

It comes as ministers and army generals warn that the UK’s Armed Forces are far from up to the task of tackling a third world war. Defence minister Grant Shapps last month declared a shift from a “post-war world” to a “pre-war world”.

More than 40 vessels from two dozen NATO nations and international partners are expected to participate in the Steadfast Defender exercise off Norway’s Arctic coast in March. Before heading to the Arctic, the carrier strike group was expected to take part in the annual Joint Warrior exercise off northern Scotland, before joining Exercise Nordic Response – the maritime part of Steadfast Defender.

But following an “issue with a coupling on HMS Queen Elizabeth’s starboard propeller shaft,” the ship will not take part as planned, Royal Navy Fleet Commander Vice Admiral Andrew Burns told the BBC.

However, the HMS Prince of Wales has only recently suffered a similar issue.

In August 2022 Prince of Wales departed HMNB Portsmouth to undertake training exercises with the US Navy, the Royal Canadian Navy, and United States Marine Corps – but only made it as far as the Isle of Wight after a coupling issue with the propeller.

Rear Admiral Steve Moorhouse, Director of Force Generation, confirmed at the time there was “significant damage to the shaft and the propeller and some superficial damage to the rudder”. He added: “There is no damage to the rest of the ship.”

And this attempt at the journey was already its second go around, as in 2020 the plan was derailed by an internal flood caused by a burst saltwater main.

The HMS Prince of Wales is the second Queen Elizabeth-class aircraft carrier in the Royal Navy.

Rather than being fitted with catapults to allow planes to take off on a short runway, the ship is designed to accommodate STOVL aircraft – which stands for Short Take Off and Vertical Landing.

The frigate is the eighth Royal Navy ship to have the name Prince of Wales.

MPs recently warned the UK is not ready for a “high intensity” war. The Commons defence committee said personnel were leaving faster than they could be recruited, calling for a better “offer” to be made to them.

It added the UK needed to turn its military around to be able to face “increasingly challenging” threats.

The cross-party defence committee’s report, “Ready for war?”, found that “overstretch has negatively impacted high intensity warfighting readiness due to the sheer pace of operations and other commitments”.

General Sir Patrick Sanders, the head of the Army and outgoing Chief of the General Staff has previously argued for the need for a larger Army, whose professional ranks now number around 73,000, compared with around 100,000 in 2010.

A Ministry of Defence spokesperson said: “Increasing recruitment and improving retention across the services is a top priority.

“Our armed forces are always ready to protect and defend the UK, and we continue to meet all operational commitments.”

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