The UK Royal Navy’s sole operational aircraft carrier, HMS Queen Elizabeth, has returned to port from sea trials after the vessel suffered an internal leak on July 9.
The carrier departed Portsmouth Naval Base last month for five weeks of sea trials and training but had to return early due to the leak, described by a Ministry of Defence (MoD) spokeswoman as “a minor issue with an internal system”, as a precautionary measure.
According to reports, there was no damage or breach to the hull as the leak was contained in an internal compartment and the water was reportedly pumped out of the ship before its return to the port.
Forces Network reported, citing sources, that the leak was due to a high-pressure salt water pipe burst, letting more than 200 tonnes of water into the ship. The report said that the leak caused flooding on several decks, and put three people at risk of drowning, but added that all people on board the ship are currently safe.
The high-pressure burst reportedly also buckled a stairwell, bent some bulkheads and split some deck-plates on the carrier, the report added.
An investigation into the cause is under way, according to the MoD.
This latest incident follows a series of other issues that plagued the vessel including a shaft seal leak, which caused the ship to take on 200 litres of water every hour, and the accidental triggering of the sprinklers in the hangar.
HMS Queen Elizabeth, the 60,000-tonne flagship of the Royal Navy, was conducting on sea training and Apache helicopter flight trials and was in preparation for her deployment to the east coast of the USA scheduled later this year.
The deployment, named ‘Westlant 19’, will include ‘operational testing’ with UK F-35B Lightning II fighter jets, following on from last’s year’s ‘developmental tests’ with US jets.
It is not currently known whether the leak incident will affect the deployment schedule of the carrier.