04 August 2023

HMS Prince of Wales returns to Portsmouth Naval Base with fixed propeller shaft

04 August 2023

Families, friends and well-wishers have welcomed the Royal Navy aircraft carrier HMS Prince of Wales as it returned to its home port almost a year after breaking down just a few miles into a journey to the United States.

The £3 billion warship suffered a broken propeller shaft after it sailed from Portsmouth Naval Base in August 2022 for a diplomatic mission to carry out exercises with the US Navy, the Royal Canadian Navy and the US Marine Corps.

The carrier came to a halt off the Isle of Wight and was brought under tow back into harbour for the problem to be identified.

It was then taken to the Babcock shipyard where it was built in Rosyth, Scotland, to undergo the repairs to a propeller shaft which have taken nine months to complete.

Fears had been raised that the 65,000 tonne vessel was being “cannibalised” for parts to be used on sister ship HMS Queen Elizabeth but Defence Secretary Ben Wallace said this was “perfectly normal” and the ship would return to service by the autumn.

The carrier moved out of dry dock at Rosyth and into the River Forth on July 21 before starting its journey back to Portsmouth Naval Base where it returned to the waving and cheering well-wishers who had lined the harbour walls.

A navy spokesman said: “The carrier will then build on her previous successes including acting as Nato’s command ship and leading the Maritime High Readiness Force in the Arctic, before she takes over from HMS Queen Elizabeth as the nation’s flagship towards the end of 2024.”

The ship’s commanding officer, Captain Richard Hewitt, said: “We are returning HMS Prince of Wales to operations as the most advanced warship ever built for the Royal Navy.

“This year, we will be operating F-35s, V-22 Ospreys, drones and the RN Merlin helicopters – pushing the boundaries of naval aviation and UK Carrier Strike capability as we progress towards a global deployment in 2025.

“Our sailors are paramount to ensuring our return to operations. They have approached the task of getting us back to sea with the remarkable ethos that I have come to expect from them. They are a credit to the ship and the Royal Navy.”

The navy spokesman said that the ship’s engineering departments had worked with civilian engineers from Babcock to fix the propeller shafts along with BAE Systems which has also been carrying out previously-planned upgrade works.

He added that the 750-strong crew have undergone training and supported recruitment drives as well as taking part in civic events during the period of the repairs.

The spokesman said the carrier had undergone a number of exercises while sailing from Scotland to test its systems, including with F-35B Lightning jets.

He said: “HMS Prince of Wales has spent the last ten days ramping up for an autumn deployment, which will see the ship operate a multitude of aircraft and drones off the east coast of the United States, pushing the boundaries of carrier operations.

“The 65,000-tonne behemoth made ‘calm seas rage’ on a series of trials, putting her upgrades through their paces and ensuring all her state-of-the-art systems were ready for full action

“It was then on to the carrier’s main line of work as the flight deck reopened for business, with Chinook and Merlin helicopters appearing on board during a busy schedule of day and night flying.

“HMS Prince of Wales also worked with F-35B Lightning aircraft – the fifth-generation stealth jet the ship was designed around – and Typhoon fighters on air defence training.

“It means both the Royal Navy’s aircraft carriers are now ready for deployments this autumn.”

Capt Hewitt added: “My sailors have worked hard to get us back to sea and ready to deploy this autumn. Now back in Portsmouth we will take some leave with families and friends and then we go.”

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