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The UK's flagship aircraft carrier suffers new misfortune and won't lead major NATO exercise

Rebecca Rommen   

The UK's flagship aircraft carrier suffers new misfortune and won't lead major NATO exercise
  • The UK Royal Navy's fleet flagship had to withdraw from a major NATO exercise at the last minute.
  • HMS Queen Elizabeth had issues with its starboard propeller shaft.

HMS Queen Elizabeth, the Royal Navy's flagship, had to pull out of its role leading the largest NATO exercise since the Cold War at the last minute, the Royal Navy reports.

Routine pre-sailing checks identified an issue with a coupling on the 65,000-ton warship's starboard propeller shaft, preventing it from sailing on Sunday.

The warship was set to participate in an upcoming NATO exercise but had to be replaced by another UK aircraft carrier, the HMS Prince of Wales.

Despite its standing as the UK Royal Navy's Fleet Flagship, HMS Queen Elizabeth has suffered a series of embarrassing mishaps since it was commissioned in 2017.

In 2019, a mechanical issue left the warship "without propulsion" for days before it flooded, Portsmouth paper The News reported.

The ship had to anchor off Britannia Royal Naval College for 24 hours to undergo repairs, per The News.

In 2021, one of the carrier's F-35B fighters crashed in the Mediterranean.

The warship, capable of carrying 60 aircraft, is the largest ever built in the UK costing, £3.1 billion, or $3.9 billion.

HMS Queen Elizabeth was due to set sail from Portsmouth naval base today and serve as the maritime centerpiece of "Steadfast Defender," the "largest military exercise in Europe since the Cold War," per NATO's Strategic Warfare Development Command.

HMS Queen Elizabeth was to lead a carrier strike group of eight ships in the exercise, including US, Spanish, and Danish vessels, in Norwegian waters and the High North, the UK Defense Journal reports.

The elaborate exercise will feature 20,000 UK military personnel deployed across Scandinavia and Northern Europe, per the Royal Navy.

The British contingent is part of 90,000 troops from all 31 NATO allies taking part.

HMS Queen Elizabeth's replacement, HMS Prince of Wales, also suffered technical issues with its starboard propeller shaft in 2022, which prompted the additional checks on the flagship.

The UK was once the world's greatest naval power

The forced last-minute cancellation of the HMS Queen Elizabeth's tour due to a malfunction follows another mishap involving Royal Navy ships.

In January, two UK warships contributing to the Gulf's maritime security collided at a Bahrain port.

The HMS Chiddingfold and HMS Bangor collided while docking.

Video footage of the latest maritime blunder appeared to show HMS Chiddingfold reversing into HMS Bangor.

The UK was once the world's greatest naval power but in 2024 the Royal Navy is a shadow of its former self.

Officials and analysts say the Navy is plagued by a shrunken and aging fleet, increasing staff shortages, and rising wear and tear as services are put under strain, the Financial Times reports.

Amid rising staffing issues, the Navy has been lowering entry requirements for recruits to try and bolster its personnel.

"There is a dissonance between the UK's military ambitions and its capabilities," Sir Richard Barrons, former head of Britain's armed forces, said, per the Financial Times. "The risk is that we get drawn into a conflict and can't sustain our presence, and this exposes a strategic weakness."

The House of Commons Defence Committee called the UK military "consistently overstretched" and under "unrelenting pressure," the Independent reports.

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