‘Issue’ forces UK aircraft carrier to miss NATO drills
The British Royal Navy's largest military vessel, the aircraft carrier HMS Queen Elizabeth, will miss upcoming NATO war games that it was supposed to lead, after suffering an unexpected “issue” in one of its propeller shafts. The development was announced by London on Sunday, with the aircraft carrier’s sister ship, the HMS Prince of Wales, set to take its place in the military bloc's drills.
The “issue” was discovered during the final pre-sail check, with the carrier then assessed as unfit to take part in the exercise.
“Routine pre-sailing checks yesterday identified an issue with a coupling on HMS Queen Elizabeth’s starboard propeller shaft. As such, the ship will not sail on Sunday,” Fleet Commander Vice Admiral Andrew Burns said in a statement.
“HMS Prince of Wales will take her place on NATO duties and will set sail for Exercise Steadfast Defender as soon as possible,” he added.
A Ministry of Defence spokesman further elaborated on the issue, insisting that the Queen Elizabeth’s problem was “separate and not linked” to earlier technical troubles on its sister ship. The Prince of Wales, commissioned in late 2019, has spent months in repairs over various issues, including at least two floors.
The Queen Elizabeth has also experienced assorted technical problems during its service, including with its propeller.
“The issue identified is with the ship’s shaft couplings. The ship’s propeller shafts are too big to be made from a single piece of metal, so each shaft is made from three sections, which are connected using shaft couplings, which bind the shaft sections together,” the spokesman explained.
HMS Prince of Wales is reportedly expected to be ready to sail for the NATO war games within a week. The major multidimensional drills kicked off in late January and are set to run until May 31, 2024, becoming the largest war game held by the US-led NATO bloc since the Cold War.
The troubles with HMS Queen Elizabeth have become the second embarrassing setback for the Royal Navy in just two weeks. On January 18, two British minesweeper vessels collided while docking in Bahrain. One sustained considerable damage, suffering a large hole punctured in its hull.