Anglo-French dispute emerges following breakdown of aircraft carrier

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An Anglo-French row has erupted over a breakdown of a key £3 billion British aircraft carrier. The British and European companies that built the 65,000-tonne HMS Prince of Wales are now awaiting a government report into the problem, as calls are growing for whoever is to blame to foot the bill for the damage.

The HMS Prince of Wales aircraft carrier, which cost taxpayers £3bn, spent most 2022 docked after problems were discovered with the vessel.

A long-planned visit to the US was cancelled because of propeller issues, leaving its sister ship the HMS Queen Elizabeth II as Britain’s operational carrier.

“There’s going to be quite a large amount of finger pointing,” says one industry insider.

“It’s a little bit embarrassing, let’s be honest.”

Investigators are questioning the actions of Thales, a Paris-based firm, one of three that delivered the vessel.

According to the now-defunct Aircraft Carrier Alliance website, Thales UK “led the design of the QE Class programme and is currently involved in the Power and Propulsion sub-alliance, which the company leads.”

It comes as the Prince of Wales broke down last summer after experiencing technical difficulties on the starboard side propellor.

It led to specialist divers carrying out a full inspection on the vessel.

The inspectors discovered the coupling which connects the propellor and drive shafts failed, leading to rudder damage.

The ship was then further delayed by the alignment of the propellor shafts.

Misalignments can cause the shaft to vibrate beyond its design tolerance, wearing down the bearings and potentially breaking a coupling on the shaft itself.

Thales said it was a proud member of the alliance but declined to comment further.

The other members of the Aircraft Carrier Alliance were BAE Systems, Britain’s biggest defence firm, and shipbuilder Babcock.

Rolls-Royce was also involved to a lesser extent, supplying the gas turbines that help power the massive vessel.

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