The HMS Queen Elizabeth (left) will not partake in the exercise (Picture: LNP)
The Royal Navy has been forced to cancel its lead role in the largest NATO exercise since the Cold War – due to a ‘rusty’ propeller shaft.
The aircraft carrier HMS Queen Elizabeth was intended to lead the massive military exercise but cancelled at the last minute after the issue was spotted.
It comes just 18 months after sister ship HMS Prince of Wales broke down off the Isle of Wight after suffering a malfunction on its starboard propeller.
The Royal Navy announced: ‘Routine pre-sailing checks yesterday identified an issue with a coupling on the HMS Queen Elizabeth starboard propeller shaft. As such, the ship will not sail on Sunday.’
They added that the HMS Prince of Wales will set sale ‘as soon as possible’ to join the Steadfast Defender exercise.
The HMS Prince of Wales will take its place (Picture: PA)
British Soldiers will still partake in the infantry part of the exercise (Picture: Getty)
In a statement to Metro.co.uk, The Ministry of Defence said: ‘It’s not uncommon to have maintenance issues with state-of-the-art ships which contain complex engineering and technology.
‘Having two aircraft carriers means that HMS Prince of Wales can quickly prepare to deploy in place of HMS Queen Elizabeth.
‘HMS Prince of Wales will deploy soon on NATO exercise Steadfast Defender, carrying out her duties to keep the nation and our allies safe.’
The DoD also clarified the issue on HMS Elizabeth is not the same as the prior one on HMS Prince of Wales, and said the ‘corrosion’ is a case of ‘wear and tear’.
But having the HMS Queen Elizabeth out of action could affect the ability of the Royal Navy to deploy an aircraft carrier to the Red Sea amid the continuing threat by Iran-backed Houthi rebels.
The ‘Steadfast Defender’ exercise, planned for early March, will help repel invasions such as that by Russian forces in Ukraine.
Mr Shapps spoke about the upcoming Nato exercise at Lancaster House in January (Picture: PA)
Militaries from multiple countries will convene during the exercise (Picture: PA)
Army, Navy and Royal Air Force members will take part in the 31-nation drill across Europe which, Defence Secretary Grant Shapps said will provide ‘vital reassurance against the Putin menace’.
Mr Shapps added: ‘Now is the time for all allied and democratic nations across the world to… ensure their defence spending is grown, because the era of the peace dividend is over.
‘In five years’ time we could be looking at multiple theatres, including Russia, China and North Korea. Ask yourself, looking at today’s conflicts across the world, is it more likely that that number grows or reduces?
‘I suspect we all know the answer – it is likely to grow.’
Speaking of the upcoming Nato exercise, Commodore James Blackmore of the UK Carrier Strike Group said: ‘Steadfast Defender demonstrates the unity of the alliance, our commitment to it – and that the UK continues to play a leading role in Nato.
‘The exercise allows us to train with our neighbours in a truly challenging environment, especially at this time of year – but that is why we have to operate up there; the weather cannot put us off.’
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