The clown show continues...
More humiliation for the Ministry of Defence as it is revealed the £3bn warship’s starboard and portside shafts are misaligned.
has been delayed further after engineers discovered “elementary” mistakes in the warship’s shaft alignment, The Telegraph can reveal in a further embarrassment to
The revelation came as the department was being investigated about its procurement process by the Conservatives, in an attempt to get to the bottom of repeated failings.
The Telegraph understands that both
starboard and portside shafts are misaligned, causing the shafts to be offset.
This can cause the shaft to vibrate beyond its design tolerance, wear the bearings and in extreme cases break a coupling on the shaft itself, as happened with
The Royal Navy’s new aircraft carrier’s
was cancelled last year because of a propeller shaft problem.
Its subsequent departure to
to undergo repairs was delayed after a “crack” was found in part of its machinery.
Tom Sharpe, a former Royal Navy officer and captain of HMS Endurance, told The Telegraph that getting shaft alignment right is a “well-established” part of any ship built within maritime engineering circles.
“It is an elementary mistake,” Mr Sharpe said. “While building a ship of this size or complexity, nothing is routine. I’m surprised that this misalignment wasn’t spotted during build or then at sea as it became worse.
“HMS Queen Elizabeth is fine, which suggests that
was subject to less rigorous testing during build and then trials when at sea. This is not uncommon in second-of-class ships. But in this case, clearly unsatisfactory.”
Navy sources insisted that by performing repairs on the portside shafts, it was “prudent action to
like we had on the other shaft”.
“When all the trials took place the shafts were within tolerance,” they said. “No issues were identified in the trial and in build.”
They added that while they are content nothing has gone wrong with the portside shaft, they believe it is in the same state the starboard shaft was in.
“So we are pre-emptively correcting it before it becomes an issue, as we know the starboard shaft ended up failing,” they said.
John Healey, the shadow defence secretary, said: “At a time when threats are rising and the number of navy ships are set to fall further, we need our fleet at sea, not stuck in dock for long-running repairs.”
Mr Healey added that as a Nato flagship, “ministers cannot allow ongoing problems to undermine the ability of our Armed Forces to lead important joint exercises”.
He said: “The Conservatives must be upfront about the time and cost of repairs, and ensure the UK can meet its commitments in full to Nato and our allies.”
Earlier this week, the MoD had to explain how a nuclear engineer working on HMS Vanguard had
in what was described as an “unforgivable” error.
The inquiry into defence procurement, which is being led by Mark Francois, the backbench Tory MP, will examine the MoD’s failures at spending hundreds of millions of pounds of taxpayers’ money properly going back at least two decades.
Mr Francois, a former Armed Forces minister, said: “The war in Ukraine is a total game changer, which means that we must increase our defence spending, as many of our Nato allies have already done.
“However, it’s not just about spending more money. It’s about getting a far better effect for the money that we spend.”
The woes with HMS Prince of Wales followed the controversy over the £5.5bn Ajax tank programme
within the MoD include the beleaguered
, which the Commons public accounts committee described as being “flawed from the outset. It said that the department had “once again made fundamental mistakes” in planning and managing a major equipment programme.
Meanwhile, a report last year by the
, which evaluates the Government’s major spending plans, found that out of 52 projects under way at the MoD, worth £194.7 billion, only three were given a green rating which suggested “successful delivery appears highly likely”.
A Royal Navy spokesman said: “After a thorough examination, the Royal Navy is completing pre-emptive work on the port shaft to prevent a similar defect occurring. We are working closely with industry to sequence this with a long-scheduled upgrade and enhancement period.
“HMS Prince of Wales will commence her operational programme, as planned, in autumn 2023. This will include flying training and trials.”