The HMS Prince of Wales, the second British aircraft carrier after the HMS Queen Elizabeth, has had various challenges since it was commissioned into the Royal Navy in December 2019.
BAE Systems, Babcock, and Thales worked together to develop the aircraft carrier as part of a collaborative effort. There were a total of six shipyards in the United Kingdom that were involved in the designing and building of the aircraft carriers in the Queen Elizabeth class. More than 10,000 persons were involved in the planning and building of the structure.
The Prince of Wales and Queen Elizabeth are the heaviest ships in the history of the British Navy, with a total displacement of 70,600 tonnes each. They are also 50% heavier than the previous largest battleship in the Royal Navy, which was the former HMS Ark Royal. The ship class can reach speeds of up to 25 knots and has space for up to 50 aircraft, some of which include Chinook heavy transport helicopters, Merlin anti-submarine helicopters, and F-35B Lightning II fighters.
The flight deck of the aircraft carrier has a width of 70 metres and a length of 280 metres, which is enough space for three football fields and enough supplies for 45 days. As a result of the data, this class has been given the distinction of being the largest that the Royal Navy has ever fielded. The minimum number of crew members required is roughly 700, while the maximum number of crew members allowed is approximately 1,600 with aircraft onboard.
The Royal Navy reported that there was a “small” flood in the ship as early as May 2020. In any event, it had nothing to do with the subsequent one that took place in October of the same year. The fire suppression system on the aircraft carrier eventually broke down, which resulted in the flooding of the engine room and the power supply systems with tonnes of water throughout the day. The aircraft carrier was not able to make its way back to the Portsmouth naval station until the 30th of April, 2021, as a result of the requirement to participate in sea testing.
In October, the HMS Prince of Wales was designated as the flagship of the maritime component of NATO’s quick reaction force (NRF – NATO Response Force) even though it did not have any F-35B fighter bombers aboard when it was declared operational at the time.
In August of last year, the ‘Westlant 22’ mission set sail from Portsmouth in the direction of North America. The Royal Navy had dubbed Westlant 22 a significant mission that would impact the future of stealth jet and drone operations. The mission would also increase the deployment of unmanned aerial Qinetiq Banshee Jet 80+ UAV targets. This programme would push the limits of unmanned technology and the tactics employed by the new Queen Elizabeth-class carriers. Also, off the United States east coast, the HMS Prince of Wales would operate Lockheed Martin F-35Bs as part of its deployment. The only item that questioned everything was the rupture of an SKF coupling on a propeller shaft line. HMS Prince of Wales was suffering an “emerging technical issue,” said a Naval spokeswoman adding that the issue is being investigated. This embarrassment occurred after the HMS Prince of Wales had just finished up an eight-month deployment in the Indo-Pacific region. HMS Queen Elizabeth replaced it for a three-month Westlant 22 mission that included stops in Halifax, Nova Scotia, New York City, and the Caribbean. During that period, the aircraft carrier had been laid up in the dry dock of the Rosyth shipyard in Scotland.
Additionally, the fixes will continue to function normally for an additional three months… if not longer, mainly due to the fact that the British Ministry of Defense (MoD) anticipates that they will be finished by spring. According to statements given to the BBC by a spokesperson of the Royal Navy, the HMS Prince of Wales will thereafter enter “another phase of maintenance.”
As per the daily newspaper ‘The Times’, the HMS Prince of Wales has been at sea for 267 days since it was given the operational go-ahead. But as Christmas Eve 2022 approached, it had been under maintenance for 268 days.
These challenges are “extremely frustrating,” in the words of Admiral Sir Tony Radakin, chief of staff of the British armed forces. In addition, the quality of this ship is different from what he would have hoped for, he said.
A spokesperson of the business responsible for building the shaft line claimed that the work is ongoing to investigate the issue’s root. Babcock said it remains committed to completing the repair of the faulty propeller.