LONDON (Agencies): The HMS Prince of Wales, a British Royal Navy aircraft carrier, has encountered delays in its departure for the largest NATO exercise since the Cold War. This incident follows closely on the heels of another mishap involving a sister ship, the HMS Queen Elizabeth.
Originally, the HMS Queen Elizabeth was slated to lead the Nordic Response 2024 drills, a gathering of approximately 40 NATO warships off Norway’s coast in March. These drills form the naval component of the broader Steadfast Defender 2024 exercise led by the US-led military bloc. However, the HMS Queen Elizabeth’s participation was abruptly canceled on February 4 due to a problem with the starboard propeller shaft coupling.
The HMS Prince of Wales was intended to step in as a replacement for the HMS Queen Elizabeth. Unfortunately, it too faced challenges and could not depart from port within the scheduled timeframe.
On Sunday, spectators assembled at Portsmouth Harbor to witness the £3 billion (approximately $3.8 billion) warship’s departure. The harbor entrance had already been closed to marine traffic as per protocol. However, an announcement revealed that the carrier’s departure had been postponed.
The British Defense Ministry has not disclosed the specific reason for this decision. Their spokesperson merely stated that “the aircraft carrier HMS Prince of Wales is due to sail from Portsmouth soon, subject to suitable tide and weather conditions.”
According to The Times, a minor fuel leak occurred aboard the carrier on Saturday night, but it remains uncertain whether this incident directly contributed to the delay.
Since its commissioning in 2019, the HMS Prince of Wales has grappled with various technical issues. Despite its crew of 1,400 sailors and capability to launch NATO’s latest F-35B multirole combat aircraft, the ship faced significant flooding incidents twice in 2020