The Daily Telegraph
Salvage tug escorts HMS Prince of Wales to Scotland in case of another breakdown
THE aircraft carrier HMS Prince of Wales is to be escorted to a dry dock in Scotland in case a further breakdown leaves it stranded at sea, The Daily Telegraph has learnt.
The Royal Navy’s newest carrier will be accompanied by a salvage tug as a safety measure should the one remaining engine or propeller suffer mechanical failure on its passage to Rosyth.
The £3billion warship has been held in Portsmouth after technical issues with the starboard side propeller last month led to the cancellation of a longplanned visit to the US.
HMS Prince of Wales broke down less than 24 hours into the passage to the US, and specialist maintenance divers have been inspecting the damage .
A naval source told The Telegraph the tug was necessary for the trip to the dry dock in Rosyth as, “lightning shouldn’t strike twice, but who knows?”
The planned exercises were to have included training with US forces on the F-35 Lightning fighter jet.
HMS Prince of Wales was also set to host the Atlantic Future Forum, an annual conference of senior military and political figures.
All responsibilities will now be undertaken by HMS Queen Elizabeth, the stricken carrier’s sister ship, which set off from Portsmouth yesterday.
Captain Ian Feasey, the commanding officer of HMS Queen Elizabeth, said yesterday: “After a period of maintenance it is fantastic for the fleet flagship to be under way again to conduct operational activity with allies and partners.”
The damage to HMS Prince of Wales is understood to centre on the starboard drive shaft and propeller coupling.
The starboard propeller, which weighs 20 tons, is said to be “secure” but in a “worst-case scenario” it might have to be removed prior to the move to the dry dock, a naval source said.
The source said the propeller was “not dangling” but “could wobble on a long trip”. “There are uncertainties over how to move the ship without causing any more damage,” they added.
For HMS Prince of Wales to transit safely to the dry dock in Rosyth, the tide will need to be low enough to allow adequate clearance under the Forth Bridge, but high enough for the 65,000-ton ship to get over the sill at the edge of the dock.
Naval staff are understood to be conducting thorough planning to determine the best time to attempt the tricky manoeuvre.
Planners will need to take into account tide times and the relative position of the Moon to the Earth to better understand the tidal range that will be experienced as the carrier moves under the bridge and into the naval base.
“We are constrained by the effects of tides,” the source said.
“There’s a lot of looking at data to maximise opportunities.”
Given the variables, it is likely HMS Prince of Wales will start the move to Rosyth in the next fortnight.