Britain’s biggest ever warship, the new £3.1 billion ($4.2 billion) aircraft carrier HMS Queen Elizabeth, has a leak and needs repairs, the Ministry of Defence (MoD) said on Tuesday.
The 65,000-tonne ship, hailed as Britain’s most advanced military vessel and which was only officially commissioned by the Queen two weeks ago, has an issue with a shaft seal which was identified during sea trials, the MoD said.
“This is scheduled for repair while she is alongside at Portsmouth,” a Royal Navy spokesman said. “It does not prevent her from sailing again and her sea trials programme will not be affected.”
The Sun newspaper reported that the 280-metre (920-foot) warship, the nation’s future flagship vessel, was letting in 200 litres of water every hour and the fix would cost millions of pounds.
A defence source said the navy was aware the ship, which took eight years to build, had an issue when it was handed over by manufacturers and the Sun said the builders would have to foot the repair bill.
The Aircraft Carrier Alliance – a consortium including British engineering companies BAE Systems and Babcock, and the UK division of France’s Thales – built the Queen Elizabeth and its sister aircraft carrier, the HMS Prince of Wales, as apart of a £6.2 billion project.
“It’s normal practice for a volume of work and defect resolution to continue following vessel acceptance,” BAE Systems said in a statement. “This will be completed prior to the nation’s flagship re-commencing her programme at sea in 2018.”
BAE said the work would be carried out early next year and the issue would take just a couple of days to fix with no need for it to be taken into a dry dock.
Chris Parry, a former senior Royal Navy officer, said all ships took on water.
“That’s why you have pumps,” he told Sky News. “When you get a brand new car not everything’s perfect, you have to send it back to the garage to get a few things tweaked. This is exactly in that bracket.”
Also on Tuesday, parliament’s defence committee raised questions about the procurement of the F-35 fighter jets from a consortium led by Lockheed Martin which will eventually operate from the Queen Elizabeth.
The committee said there had been an “unacceptable lack of transparency” about the programme and the MoD had failed to provide details of the full cost of each aircraft which one newspaper had estimated could be as much as £155 million.
“Our new aircraft carrier is the epitome of British design and dexterity, at the core of our efforts to build an Armed Forces fit for the future,” British Defence Secretary Gavin Williamson said at the Queen Elizabeth’s commissioning.