HMS Queen Elizabeth Portsmouth: Royal Navy's flagship carrier unable to deploy on NATO exercise over 'mechanical issue'

HMS Queen Elizabeth, set to sail from Portsmouth today, will no longer deploy - with her sister carrier Prince of Wales set to take her place. (Photo: Getty Images)HMS Queen Elizabeth, set to sail from Portsmouth today, will no longer deploy - with her sister carrier Prince of Wales set to take her place. (Photo: Getty Images)
HMS Queen Elizabeth, set to sail from Portsmouth today, will no longer deploy - with her sister carrier Prince of Wales set to take her place. (Photo: Getty Images) | Getty Images
HMS Queen Elizabeth, set to sail from Portsmouth today, will no longer deploy - with her sister carrier Prince of Wales set to take her place

The Royal Navy's flagship carrier, HMS Queen Elizabeth, will no longer deploy on a NATO exercise after a "significant issue" with the "starboard propeller shaft" has been discovered. The announcement came last night (Saturday 3 February), just a day before the carrier was due to set sail.

HMS Queen Elizabeth was being prepared to sail from Portsmouth at 6pm tonight (Sunday 4 February) to lead more than 40 vessels taking part in Exercise Steadfast Defender -  the largest NATO exercise in Europe since the Cold War. But the Royal Navy has confirmed that the carrier will not sail due to the mechanical failure and instead the HMS Prince of Wales will be "readied to replace her".

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The Fleet Commander said: “Routine pre-sailing checks yesterday identified an issue with a coupling on HMS Queen Elizabeth’s starboard propeller shaft. As such, the ship will not sail on Sunday. HMS Prince of Wales will take the place of HMS Queen Elizabeth on NATO duties and will set sail for Exercise Steadfast Defender as soon as possible.“

HMS Queen Elizabeth, set to sail from Portsmouth today, will no longer deploy - with her sister carrier Prince of Wales set to take her place. (Photo: Getty Images)HMS Queen Elizabeth, set to sail from Portsmouth today, will no longer deploy - with her sister carrier Prince of Wales set to take her place. (Photo: Getty Images)
HMS Queen Elizabeth, set to sail from Portsmouth today, will no longer deploy - with her sister carrier Prince of Wales set to take her place. (Photo: Getty Images) | Getty Images

Navy Lookout, Independent Royal Navy news and analysis, said: "Demonstrating the value of having two aircraft carriers, at very short notice the ship’s company of HMS Prince of Wales have been told to prepare to sail. This process will probably take a week or so and will involve rapidly accelerating existing maintenance tasks, the transfer of equipment from her sister as well as storing and fuelling ship."

HMS Queen Elizabeth being unfit to sail comes amid intensifying debate about whether we are on the cusp of another world war - and whether the UK would be ready to fight. It also comes after minister James Heappey indicated that an aircraft carrier could be deployed to the Red Sea to replace the USS Dwight D Eisenhower when it is returned to America. He indicated the Royal Navy could step in "when the Eisenhower goes home, if we were needed to plug a gap in US deployments, or if the situation deteriorates and we need more".

The news that the sister carrier Prince of Wales is set to take over HMS Queen Elizabeth has been met with a lot of doubt on social media. One user wrote on X, formerly Twitter: "Isn't that the same issue Prince of Wales had?".

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In August 2022 the aircraft carrier suffered a broken propeller shaft not long after setting sail from Portsmouth Naval Base for a diplomatic mission to the United States. The 65,000 tonne vessel 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 Babcock shipyard, in Rosyth, Scotland, to undergo repairs, which took nine months to complete.

The Prince of Wales carrier returned home in December after a three-month deployment carrying out flight trials with the US Marine Corps and F-35B stealth fighter jets. When the carrier will set sail to take over from HMS Queen Elizabeth for the NATO mission has yet to be confirmed.

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