The Royal Navy has taken the unusual step of responding to media speculation by issuing a detailed statement on the damage to HMS Prince of Wales. One of the two largest ships of the fleet and only having recently been placed into service, the carrier suffered an embarrassing failure as she departed for what was being called a “landmark mission” in cooperation with the Americans.
Speaking in a videotaped statement, Rear Admiral Steve Moorhouse said, “Our focus has been on understanding the nature and extent of the damage and the safety of her crew. We will repair her and get her back on operations, protecting the nation and our allies, as soon as possible.”
HMS Prince of Wales departed Portsmouth on Saturday, August 27, for what was to be a nearly four-month program to sail to the United States for joint training exercises and a visit to the Caribbean. Observers noted as she departed that she seemed to only be showing a wake on the portside leading to rampant comments of a problem with possibly the starboard propeller.
Shortly after sailing, the carrier anchored with the Royal Navy admitting there had been an “issue” after her departure. She was later moved to a more sheltered position while a survey was ongoing.
“Royal Navy divers inspected the starboard shaft and adjacent areas,” says the Rear Admiral. “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 initial assessment of the carrier also shows an “extremely unusual fault,” in the starboard shaft. The coupling that joins the final two sections of the shaft has failed.
According to the reports, the Royal Navy is currently trying to stabilize the situation before they can return the vessel to Portsmouth. They are also investigating repair alternatives, but are admitting that it is likely the Prince of Wales will need to dry dock to undertake repairs. No estimates were offered on how long it might take to complete the repairs.
In an effort to save the mission, the Royal Navy reports that they have reassigned HMS Queen Elizabeth to undertake a portion of the training exercise with the United States. The first carrier of the class is due to stand in for her younger sister ship departing this week for the United States. However, she will return to Europe earlier than planned to undertake her fall exercises which were scheduled for the Mediterranean.
So far, the Royal Navy has not offered any explanations as to how the damage occurred to the Prince of Wales. It is just the latest in a series of high-profile failures of the multi-billion-dollar carrier. Commissioned in December 2019, she spent most of 2020 and 2021 sidelined with a series of problems. Finally, in October 2021, the Royal Navy declared that she was fully operational and would be fully ready for frontline deployment by 2023.