Fresh embarrassment for Navy as fire breaks out on £3bn flagship HMS Queen Elizabeth

It is the second time in as many weeks that HMS Queen Elizabeth has been hit with a problem

Matt Mathers
Sunday 10 March 2024 00:08 GMT
HMS Queen Elizabeth aircraft prepares to set sail

A fire broke out on the Royal Navy’s £3bn flagship, the HMS Queen Elizabeth, while it was in the dock awaiting repairs.

The fire started on board the Royal Navy’s largest and most powerful vessel, said to be docked at Glenmalan in Scotland, on Saturday morning.

A Royal Navy spokesperson said the “minor, isolated fire” was quickly brought under control and extinguished.

It is understood there were no reported injuries and no ordnance was involved in the incident. Officials are working to establish how the fire started.

It is the second time in as many weeks that HMS Queen Elizabeth has been hit with a problem. The flagship vessel pulled out of a Nato exercise earlier this month after an issue was discovered with its coupling - a part between the propeller shaft and gearbox.

It was replaced with its sister ship HMS Prince of Wales, which was to take part in the largest Nato maritime exercise in nearly half a century.

HMS Prince of Wales itself encountered problems when it broke down off the Isle of Wight 18 months previously after setting sail for the US. It also suffered a malfunction with a coupling on its starboard propeller.

HMS Queen Elizabeth is now en route to Rosyth in Scotland so any necessary repairs can be carried out on her starboard propeller shaft coupling.

The Royal Navy aircraft carrier HMS Queen Elizabeth leaves Portsmouth Harbour (Andrew Matthews/PA Wire)

It comes after the government faced questions over the effectiveness of Britain’s nuclear deterrent after a test launch of the UK’s Trident nuclear missile failed, crashing back into the ocean close to the submarine that fired it.

The unarmed Trident II missile was launched from the nuclear-powered HMS Vanguard as part of final tests following a £500m overhaul, before the vessel returns to patrol service.

Chancellor Jeremy Hunt did not announce any additional funding for the Ministry of Defence in his spring Budget on Wednesday despite growing threats around the world and war in Europe.

Rishi Sunak is under pressure to boost defence spending after two serving ministers publicly called for a “much greater pace” of investment.

The call from Foreign Office minister Anne-Marie Trevelyan and security minister Tom Tugendhat came after the Budget was criticised for failing to boost defence spending.

The two senior Tories said the UK needs to “lead the way” by increasing defence and security spending to at least 2.5 per cent of gross domestic product (GDP), a measure of the size of the economy.

While the government has an aspiration to reach 2.5 per cent, beyond the Nato-wide target of 2 per cent, the ministers said the global risk posed by countries including Russia and China meant there was no time for delay.

“The sad truth is that the world is no longer benign,” they said.

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