The Royal Navy experienced a major setback with its £3.2 billion aircraft carrier HMS Prince of Wales, which was impacted by a flood in late October. The 65,000 ton vessel, which is the largest warship ever built for the Royal Navy, experienced a flood in its engine room and, while contained, could cause a delay in its sea trials but won’t have a long-term impact on the regeneration of the UK’s Carrier Strike capability in 2023.
The flood was reportedly caused by a burst fire main that left the engine room and electrical cabinets submerged for more than 24 hours. As a result, the warship will remain at Portsmouth naval base for at least six months. Prince of Wales has been barred from leaving the naval facility until at least next spring over safety concerns.
“HMS Prince of Wales is alongside at HMNB Portsmouth conducting repairs following a flood in an engine room,” a spokesperson for the Royal Navy told Naval Technology. “The ship’s company are getting ready to sail for further training and trials in 2021.”
The vessel had been set to sail to the United States to take part in F-35B Lightning II integration trials.
“It’s embarrassing,” a source told the UK Sun newspaper. “The America trip took years of planning and we’ve had to say we can’t come.”
This isn’t the first time the crew of Prince of Wales has had to do some cleanup after a flood either. In May, the aircraft carrier also suffered a leak – and video on Facebook showed water cascading down from a ceiling and into the warship’s crew quarters. A Royal Navy spokesman said the leak was a “minor issue” and that crewmembers had to “remove a small volume of water from the ship.”
HMS Queen Elizabeth, the flagship aircraft carrier of the Royal Navy, also suffered a minor leak in July 2019 and several decks were flooded. The flooding on the Prince of Wales could be more serious as it impacted machinery spaces and based on the photos there was considerable flooding in some of the compartments.
The website Save the Royal Navy also noted the potential dangers the crew may face, “The QEC carriers are propelled by electric motors with high voltage power supplied from diesels and gas turbine generators through a complex system of converters, switchboards and cabling. As warships have increasingly come to rely on electric propulsion, the hazards of high voltages can make damage control more complex and dangerous. Fortunately, the flood did not occur at sea with the engines running and the HV system was probably not in use. However, if elements of the electrical system were submerged in saltwater then it will require stripping out and replacing which will be costly and time-consuming.”
For now Prince of Wales will winter in port as the engine room and damaged electrical systems are repaired.
Hopefully, during the winter the ship will be hooked up to a land-based power supply so that residents near the port can get a good night’s rest. Earlier this year, after returning to port, the Queen Elizabeth-class the ship continued to run its massive diesel Wärtsilä diesel generators, which each produces a total of 11 Megawatts of power, or enough to sustain a town with a population of 25,000 people. However, the warship’s engines were reportedly so loud that locals have complained of “incessant noise pollution.”
Peter Suciu is a Michigan-based writer who has contributed to more than four dozen magazines, newspapers and websites. He is the author of several books on military headgear including A Gallery of Military Headdress, which is available on Amazon.com.