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British aircraft carrier to miss NATO drills over propeller shaft ‘issue’

HMS Queen Elizabeth will be replaced by its sister ship during the exercise, the UK military has announced

The Royal Navy aircraft carrier HMS Queen Elizabeth is set to skip the upcoming major NATO exercise it was supposed to lead, after suffering an unexpected “issue” in one of its propeller shafts shortly before its planned departure. The development was announced by the Royal Navy on Sunday, with the aircraft carrier’s sister ship, the HMS Prince of Wales, set to take its place at the NATO drills.

The “issue” was discovered during the final pre-sail check, with the carrier, Britain’s largest military vessel, then assessed as unfit to take part in the exercise.

“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,” Fleet Commander Vice Admiral Andrew Burns said in a statement.

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“HMS Prince of Wales will take her place on NATO duties and will set sail for Exercise Steadfast Defender as soon as possible,” he added.

A Ministry of Defence spokesman further elaborated on the issue, insisting that the Queen Elizabeth’s problem was “separate and not linked” to earlier technical troubles on its sister ship. The Prince of Wales, commissioned in late 2019, has spent months in repairs over various issues, including at least two floors. The second one turned out to be rather major, putting the vessel out of commission for some six months. The Queen Elizabeth has also experienced assorted technical problems during its service, including with its propeller.

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“The issue identified is with the ship’s shaft couplings. The ship’s propeller shafts are too big to be made from a single piece of metal, so each shaft is made from three sections, which are connected using shaft couplings, which bind the shaft sections together,” the spokesman explained.

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HMS Prince of Wales is reportedly expected to get ready to set sail in about a week, eventually joining the Steadfast Defender drills. The major multidimensional NATO exercise kicked off in late January and is set to run until May 31, 2024, becoming the largest war game held by the US-led NATO bloc since Cold War times.

The troubles with HMS Queen Elizabeth have become the second embarrassing setback for the Royal Navy in just two weeks. On January 18, two British minesweeper vessels collided while docking in Bahrain. One of them sustained considerable damage in the collision, getting a large hole punctured in its hull.

February 05, 2024 at 01:12AM
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