LONDON – The largest and most expensive warship ever built for the United Kingdom’s Royal Navy has sprung a leak and will need urgent repairs before it can go into service, officials said on Tuesday.
The massive new aircraft carrier, named HMS (her majesty’s ship) “Queen Elizabeth” – which came with a staggering price tag of some 3.5 billion pounds ($4.5 billion) – began letting in water during a six-week sea trial after it left in June the historic Rosyth Dockyard, near Edinburgh, where it had been assembled, the defense minister said.
“This isn’t going to cost the British taxpayer a penny,” Gavin Williamson said, adding that responsibility for the fault lay with the shipbuilders.
“An issue with a shaft seal has been identified during HMS Queen Elizabeth’s sea trials; this is scheduled for repair while she is alongside at Portsmouth,” a Royal Navy spokesman had said.
Williamson, who was appointed in charge of Prime Minister Theresa May’s defense portfolio in November, said that sea trials existed “to make sure that everything is working absolutely perfectly.”
The ship has reportedly been taking in more than 200 liters (53 gallons) of seawater an hour.
Williamson confirmed that work was currently underway to deal with the leak before the carrier was to become operational with helicopters on board.
The 65,000-ton behemoth has a crew of 700 – which can be expanded to 1,000 – and will, when fully equipped, have the capability to carry up to 36 multirole Lockheed Martin F-35B Lightning II stealth fighters.
The Royal Navy said on Monday that it had taken delivery of its 14th F-35B Lightning II, which flew into the United States Marine Corps Air Station Beaufort, South Carolina.
Both the Queen Elizabeth and her sister ship, the future aircraft carrier HMS Prince of Wales, have been the target of criticism because they were designed to be used with US-built F-35B short takeoff and vertical landing aircraft, the world’s first supersonic STOVL stealth aircraft.
The planes became the most expensive military weapons system in history after their cost rose to be hundreds of billions of dollars over-budget and a decade overdue.
The Queen Elizabeth is scheduled to become operational in 2020, 11 years after its construction started.