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Royal Navy Rushes Repairs to Carrier for Seven-Day Turnaround

HMS Prince of Wales departs with tug assistance
Courtesy Royal Navy

Published Feb 12, 2024 6:31 PM by The Maritime Executive

With just a week's notice, the crew of the newly-returned carrier HMS Prince of Wales has finished necessary maintenance and deployed to fill in for sister ship HMS Queen Elizabeth. Crewmembers and shore support staff packed one month's worth of maintenance into seven days to get the vessel ready to go again. 

Prince of Wales will now serve as the flagship of an eight-vessel carrier strike group for Operation Steadfast Defender, a large-scale NATO exercise to be held off Norway in late February and early March. 40 vessels from over two dozen nations will join the maritime component of the force. 

Sister ship HMS Queen Elizabeth was supposed to carry out this high-profile mission, but days before departing, she had to stand down because of problems with a shaft coupling. HMS Prince of Wales has also had serious issues with shaft couplings, requiring protracted shipyard repairs, but the Royal Navy said that the nature of Queen Elizabeth's malfunction was "separate and not linked."

HMS Prince of Wales was tapped to sail in her place. The carrier had just returned from the U.S. East Coast, where her crew had trained with the U.S. Navy, and she was due for a routine maintenance period. However, spares and stores were cross-decked, the crew was recalled from shore leave, and the combined maintenance establishment accelerated all repairs to completion.

“I cannot emphasize enough how much hard work has been required over the last week,” said Commodore James Blackmore, Commander UK Carrier Strike Group. “That myself and my battlestaff are now afloat in an aircraft carrier that was preparing for a substantial maintenance package just seven days ago is a remarkable achievement."

The carrier is still departing in time to carry out a work-up in the North Sea with her escorts and her air wing. After those preparations, Prince of Wales will sail for Norway to join the largest NATO exercises in more than 40 years.