Britain’s New Aircraft Carrier Stripped For Parts After Breakdowns Take it Out of Service: Flight Elevators Removed Entirely

The British Royal Navy’s largest and most costly warship the aircraft carrier HMS Prince of Wales is currently being stripped for parts, after multiple performance issues culminating in incidents of flooding and major mechanical failures forced the new ship into a long period of repairs. Not only have items such as oil and fuel filters been stripped from the ship, but flight deck lifts used to carry aircraft up from hangars have also been removed entirely. Among other issues, the Prince of Wales’ propellers are currently being replaced in dry dock in Scotland, although its period out of sea may be extended considerably as parts are used to replace those which have broken on the carrier’s similarly troubled sister ship HMS Queen Elizabeth. The Prince of Wales had set out to the United States in August 2022 when technical issues forced it to return to port just 24 hours into its voyage, by which time it had only reached as far as the coast of the Isle of Wight. The cost of repairing the ship are estimated at over $30 million, with the Royal Navy’s goal of returning it to service in the Autumn of 2023 considered unlikely to be reached. 

Preceding the ship’s failure in August 2022, in December 2020 HMS Prince of Wales suffered serious flooding which was expected to take at least six months to repair. The floods occurred while the warship was in dock in Portsmouth and resulted from faulty pipes, with footage of flooding below decks, including water pouring down concrete stairs and submerging electrical cabinets, and filling an engine compartment with at least three feet of water, having been released by local media. The Sun reported that “thousands of gallons of seawater poured into an engine room and submerged electrical cabinets for over 24 hours,” with necessary repairs expected to be highly costly. HMS Prince of Wales and HMS Queen Elizabeth have hardly been isolated in the issues they have faced, with ships across the British surface fleet proving similarly problematic. The country’s sole class of destroyer the Type 45 Class, which are heavily relied on to provide air defence to carrier groups, has proven among the most problematic with issues affecting almost all areas of performance and particularly their availability rates. Five of the six ships having been out of service in 2021 as a result for an availability rate of just 17 percent. British carrier air wings built around the F-35B fighter have also proven highly problematic, both due to the major performance and availability issues the aircraft continues to face, as well as due to delays to production and Britain’s inability to finance acquisitions on the scale previously considered necessary to furnish two aircraft carriers. An F-35B operating from HMS Queen Elizabeth fell into the sea in an accident near Cyprus in November 2021 – a major loss considering the class’ cost of over $130 million per airframe.