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Royal Navy Carrier Heads for Drydock to Repair Shaft Damage

prince of wales
HMS Prince of Wales (Royal Navy file image)

Published Oct 10, 2022 12:58 AM by The Maritime Executive

The Royal Navy carrier HMS Prince of Wales has left her home port of Portsmouth to return to Rosyth, Scotland, where she will enter drydock for repairs to her starboard propeller shaft. 

Prince of Wales sustained a shaft failure on August 27, just after a grand sendoff for a transatlantic voyage, and sister ship HMS Queen Elizabeth had to step in to complete the mission. Prince of Wales returned to Portsmouth, where a dive inspection revealed that a coupling on her starboard shaft had failed, resulting in both shaft and rudder damage. She was scheduled to have the starboard propeller pulled while at Portsmouth and leave for shipyard by October 3, but technical issues pushed back her departure until the 8th. 

According to the Royal Navy, the fastest and safest way to repair her is to drydock the ship at Rosyth, the yard which built her and one of the few UK yards capable of handling a vessel of her size. The extent of the damage will be investigated once she is out of the water, but until then, the timeline for return to service is unknown. 

“While our plans to push the boundaries of the UK’s carrier innovation are temporarily on hold, I am immensely proud of the ship’s company who have risen to the challenge of preparing for repairs while facing the short-term disappointment of a postponed deployment,” said commanding officer Captain Richard Hewitt in a statement.

The shaft damage is the latest in a series of setbacks for Prince of Wales since her commissioning in late 2019. The carrier suffered minor flooding in May 2020, and another breakdown in October 2020 sent her back to the shipyard for major repairs. It is reported that she spent only 20 days at sea in all of 2020. In October 2021, the Royal Navy declared that she was fully operational, but the recent shaft failure has sidelined her for an indeterminite period.

HMS Prince of Wales and HMS Queen Elizabeth are the Royal Navy's first new carriers in a generation, and they have brought a long-awaited return to full-fledged carrier aviation for the service. They are designed for use with STOVL or VTOL aircraft like the F-35B, and they rely a ski jump rather than a catapult for launch operations.