The “future flagship” of the British Royal Navy’s fleet, has a leak so severe that it reached “neck-high” in some flooded parts of the ship, forcing a hasty return to its base in Portsmouth. The aircraft carrier was meant to be on five weeks of sea trials.
“Following a minor issue with an internal system on HMS Queen Elizabeth, the ship’s company were required to remove a small volume of water from the ship,” a Royal Navy spokesperson said. “An investigation into the cause is underway.”
The “minor issue” happens to be 250 tons of water that has flooded into two compartments and a stairwell. The Royal Navy initially reported that the ship’s hull remained undamaged and that all the water was successfully pumped out.
“During her time out of the water, 284 hull valves were changed, both rudder blades were removed and cleaned, her sea inlet pipes were inspected, all sacrificial anodes were replaced and a renewed coat of anti-foul paint was applied to the ship’s bottom,” a Royal Navy press release noted.
According to various UK media reports, the cause was a likely high-pressure sea water pipe which burst. And the force of the water was so strong that a stairwell buckled by the high-pressure jet that the leak had created, according to Forces News.
Both the Queen Elizabeth as well another carrier still under construction, the HMS Prince of Wales, are “the largest and most advanced warships ever built for the Royal Navy” but the former has reportedly been plagued by several mechanical issues.
In 2017, a faulty propeller shaft gland seal was letting in 200 litres of water an hour. The shaft seal leak resulted in the three sailors almost drowning, as well as sprinklers being falsely triggered in an aircraft hangar, the BBC reported.
The Queen Elizabeth will eventually be carry up to 40 F-35 Joint Strike Fighters, which have already had test flights from the ship. The F-35 jets are Short Takeoff and Vertical Landing aircraft.
Each of the two aircraft lifts on HMS Queen Elizabeth is supposedly able move two fighter jets from the hangar to the flight deck within 60 seconds.