Britain’s Troubled New Aircraft Carrier Suffers Another Accident: Exercises with U.S. Cancelled Again

The British Royal Navy aircraft carrier HMS Prince of Wales, the second ship of the Queen Elizabeth Class, has suffered damage to its starboard propeller shaft during operations in British Waters. This is expected to potentially delay plans to deploy the ship to visit New York, Halifax, and the Caribbean and operate alongside allies including the U.S. Navy. The exercises were intended to involve “operating F-35B jets and uncrewed systems which will define Royal Navy aviation of the future,” according to the service's reports. The accident is the latest of several to befall the British warship, and is not the first to force a cancellation of plans to conduct exercises across the Atlantic, with plans to carry out ‘Westlant 21’ trials using F-35B vertical landing capable fighters in the United States previously having been terminated as a result of serious flooding in December 2020. At the time flooding reportedly damaged the carrier’s high-voltage electrical propulsion system, comprised of two Rolls Royce Marine gas turbine alternator and four diesel engines. While the Prince of Wales is expected to be repaired in the near future, a more serious issue pertains to its air wing with plans to acquire required numbers of F-35B fighters unlikely to be met, while the F-35 itself continues to suffer from a range of performance and readiness issues and design flaws which are not expected to be resolved for the foreseeable future. Shortages of F-35Bs has led to calls to sell the warship, or lease it to the U.S. Navy, with British carriers currently relying on U.S. Marine F-35s and their pilots to operate from their decks to form a meaningful fraction of a full air wing.  

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