Britain’s new multi-billion aircraft carrier HMS Queen Elizabeth was forced to cut short sea trials this week after springing a leak.
The $3.8 billion warship, the future flagship of the Royal Navy’s fleet, had set out from Portsmouth last month for the trials.
“Following a minor issue with an internal system on HMS Queen Elizabeth, the ship’s company were required to remove a small volume of water from the ship,” a Royal Navy spokesperson said. “An investigation into the cause is underway.”
Some reports in British media attributed the leak to a burst high-pressure sea water pipe that damaged a stairwell and split deck plates.
But the Royal Navy said the ship’s hull was not damaged, and all the water was removed.
The 65,000-ton aircraft carrier would have been returning to its Portsmouth base later this week for planned maintenance this week anyway and the early return was just precautionary, the Royal Navy said.
The Queen Elizabeth had undergone an extensive inspection and had maintenance performed in a dry dock in May, according to a Royal Navy release.
“During her time out of the water, 284 hull valves were changed, both rudder blades were removed and cleaned, her sea inlet pipes were inspected, all sacrificial anodes were replaced and a renewed coat of anti-foul paint was applied to the ship’s bottom,” the release said.
That successful inspection meant another would not be needed for six years, the Royal Navy said.
The ship is scheduled to go to the United States later this year for trials with Britain’s F-35B fighter jets, which will form the bulk of the ship’s air wing when it becomes fully operational next year.
The Royal Navy calls the Queen Elizabeth, and its still-under-construction twin HMS Prince of Wales, “the largest and most advanced warships ever built for the Royal Navy.”