Royal Navy aircraft carrier HMS Prince of Wales has left Portsmouth this weekend to return to her birthplace – the next step in resuming front-line operations.

The aircraft carrier is heading for Rosyth for work on her starboard (right hand) propeller shaft which suffered a mechanical defect as the ship left for New York last month.

Inspections by divers revealed the shaft coupling had failed. The fastest and safest way to repair it and return the ship to operations will mean the carrier will enter dry dock in Rosyth, one of the few yards capable of accommodating the 65,000-tonne warship.

Since the aircraft carrier returned to Portsmouth Naval Base in early September, the ship’s engineers have been working with divers and expert naval architects and engineers from Babcock – who run the dockyard at Rosyth – and the MoD’s Defence Equipment and Support organisation to work out what is needed to return HMS Prince of Wales back to operations.

However, the extent of and the timescale for the repairs will not be fully known until the ship is in dry dock and has been thoroughly inspected by engineers, but the goal is to return HMS Prince of Wales to front-line operations as quickly and safely as possible.

In the meantime the mighty 33-ton starboard propeller was removed ahead of her journey to the Firth of Forth.

Captain Richard Hewitt said:

“While our plans to push the boundaries of the UK’s carrier innovation are temporarily on hold, I am immensely proud of the ship’s company who have risen to the challenge of preparing for repairs while facing the short-term disappointment of a postponed deployment.

“Now that the initial engineering challenges have been overcome to allow us to sail, we will transit to Rosyth where we will continue to work hard with our industry partners in the dockyard to ensure the shaft is repaired as quickly as possible and return HMS Prince of Wales to the front line to continue her operations”

To prepare for the return to Rosyth, where the carrier was assembled between 2011 and 2017, the carrier’s navigation team have trained on a simulator alongside Forth pilots and tug captains at South Shields Marine School at the South Tyneside College to practise the approach to anchorage and sailing under the three Forth bridges and into the dry dock.

Lieutenant Commander Chris Poulson, HMS Prince of Wales’ Navigator, said:

“Returning Prince of Wales back into the dock in which she was assembled will be a big navigational challenge.

“We of course know that she will fit, but it will be a huge team effort between the ship’s company, the Forth Pilots, the team ashore from Babcock and the towage company to get her in to the dock. As well as completing the manoeuvre safely, I am looking forward to taking the ship under the Forth bridges and seeing them from beneath for the first time.”

The ship has sailed with a full complement of crew – 750 men and women – who will remain with the ship and continue training for renewed operations as well as supporting the maintenance package while in Rosyth.

While alongside in Rosyth, they will continue to crew and train on the ships systems for their operational roles while also taking advantage of their temporary new home’s stunning Scottish landscape to undertake leadership and adventurous training activities during the autumn and winter months.

While under repair, her autumn programme that included operating with F35B lightning, MV22 Osprey and UAVs off the Eastern Seaboard of the USA is currently being rescheduled for 2023.

Source: Royal Navy


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