Questions asked after UK Royal Navy’s £3bn ‘unlucky ship’ breaks down again

The the HMS Prince of Wales aircraft carrier. Riverheron photos/

MPs on the UK’s Defence Select Committee have questioned whether a state-of-the-art aircraft carrier costing £3 billion is just ‘an unlucky ship’.

HMS Prince of Wales keeps breaking down, leaving high-ranking MPs scratching their heads as to why the huge vessel seemingly keeps suffering from faults of one description or another.

The aircraft carrier was retreated to the Rosyth shipyard in Scotland last October to repair “significant damage” to the starboard propeller shaft, and last week Defence Select Committee MPs were told there are “similar issues” with the port side shaft.

Committee chairman Tobias Ellwood MP has hinted that the warship had spent more time in dry dock than at sea, before a seemingly exasperated Mark Francois MP said the UK cannot have a “carrier with a limp”.

A full investigation into the “root cause of the failure” is underway.

Mr Francois, quoted in the Dunfermline Press, said: “The Prince of Wales was commissioned in December 2019.

“She suffered two serious leaks in 2020.

“According to The Times, between October 2020 and April 2021, she spent 193 days having that water damage repaired.

“In August 2021, she set sail for the east coast.

“She then breaks down and has to be towed to Rosyth.

“What, fundamentally, is the problem with this £3 billion warship?

“What actually is the problem?”

Vice Admiral Paul Marshall told the committee that the repairs to the HMS Prince of Wales’ starboard shaft should be completed in the Spring.

She will then sail from Rosyth to her home base of Portsmouth for pre-planned maintenance and re-join operations in the Autumn.

Mr Francois added: “She is the same design as HMS Queen Elizabeth, which has not had any of these problems.

“Is the Prince of Wales just an unlucky ship, or is there something that went wrong with the build of the Prince of Wales that did not happen with the Queen Elizabeth?

“Why does the Prince of Wales keep breaking down?

“We cannot have – when you add in the air group – a £5 billion carrier with a limp.”

Vice Admiral Marshall replied: “In parallel with the repair, we are carrying out a full investigation into the root cause of the failure.”

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Written by

Simon Smedley

Reporter - Euro Weekly News