HMS Prince of Wales
HMS Prince of Wales broke down off the Isle of Wight after leaving Portsmouth in Aigust 2022.
QE-class aircraft carriers

HMS Prince of Wales: Second shaft problem adds to repair list for aircraft carrier

HMS Prince of Wales
HMS Prince of Wales broke down off the Isle of Wight after leaving Portsmouth in Aigust 2022.

A second, separate shaft on board HMS Prince of Wales has been found to have "similar issues" to those which caused the aircraft carrier to retreat for repairs last August.

A malfunction to the ship's 33-tonne starboard shaft initially caused the £3bn warship to break down off the Isle of Wight as she was leaving Portsmouth for trials in the US.

Months on, the Defence Select Committee has heard the ship's port shaft was also found to have encountered difficulties, following checks regarding the initial error.

"We will be repairing the port shaft at the same time as the starboard shaft," said Vice Admiral Paul Marshall, giving evidence to the committee.

Propeller shafts are made up of a number of steel poles joined together, with the engine on one end and the propeller on the other – Vice Adm Marshall says both faulty components will be fixed together in the spring, ahead of a pre-planned maintenance period and, in autumn, she will return to operations.

Details on whether the build of HMS Prince of Wales (commissioned in 2019) or factors at sea were to blame for the errors were not disclosed, as an investigation hasn't yet reached its conclusion.

HMS Prince of Wales in dry dock in Rosyth
HMS Prince of Wales in dry dock in Rosyth (Picture: Royal Navy).

On 2 September 2022, Rear Admiral Steve Moorhouse said in a video statement released by the Royal Navy: "We can confirm there is significant damage to the shaft and the propeller and some superficial damage to the rudder. There is no damage to the rest of the ship."

The management of "material state" of the Navy's carrier and maintenance will now form part of the ongoing investigation, says Vice Adm Marshall.

Conservative committee member MP Mark Francois, citing the latest discovery alongside "two serious leaks in 2020", asked why the "same design" on sister ship HMS Queen Elizabeth hasn't suffered the same fate.

"We can't have, when you add in an air group, a £5bn carrier, with a limp," he added.

Vice Adm Marshall, in response, cited faith in the investigation, the findings of which Mr Francois asked to be shown to the committee once available.

The Vice Admiral was "confident" propulsion faults on board HMS Prince of Wales do not signal a "class issue" which would also impede HMS Queen Elizabeth, following "appropriate checks".

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