Departure of £3bn Royal Navy aircraft carrier halted - a week after cancelled voyage of sister ship

The departure of a £3bn Royal Navy aircraft carrier for a major NATO exercise has been delayed - a week after the cancelled voyage of its sister ship.

HMS Prince of Wales was due to set sail to replace HMS Queen Elizabeth - whose voyage was called off at the last minute last Sunday because a problem was found in final checks with the starboard propeller coupling.

The warship had been expected to leave Portsmouth Naval Base to lead the largest NATO exercise since the Cold War, involving more than 40 vessels.

Since the cancellation, HMS Prince of Wales was being prepared to take over the role in Exercise Steadfast Defender - which will take place off Norway.

People lined the walls of Portsmouth Harbour to watch the 65,000-tonne warship set sail today but she failed to leave the jetty.

The Ministry of Defence did not give a reason for the last-minute postponement but a spokesperson said: "The aircraft carrier HMS Prince of Wales is due to sail from Portsmouth soon, subject to suitable tide and weather conditions.

"Any further updates on sailing times will be published on KHM Portsmouth's shipping movements later today."

One member of the public who had come to wave off the carrier said: "I hope it hasn't broken down again."

It comes 18 months after HMS Prince of Wales broke down off the Isle of Wight, when it suffered a malfunction with a coupling on its starboard propeller as it was heading to a diplomatic mission to carry out exercises with the US Navy, Royal Canadian Navy and the US Marine Corps.

The carrier was brought under tow back into harbour and inspections by divers and engineers found the carrier's 33-tonne starboard propeller - the same weight as 30 Ford Fiesta cars - had malfunctioned, with a coupling holding it in place breaking.

An MoD spokesperson said the issue on HMS Queen Elizabeth last week was "separate and not linked" to the earlier defect on its sister ship.