Captain Steve Moorhouse insisted that the Royal Navy’s £3 billion warship was safe and ready for deployment to the US, where British fighter jets will take off from its flight deck for the first time.
The navy’s largest-ever warship was forced to cut short sea trials and return to its home port of Portsmouth in July after a seal burst causing a large quantity of water to pour from a pipe.
The leak followed a number of other issues including a shaft seal leak which caused water to pour into the ship, and the accidental triggering of the sprinklers in the hangar.
Meanwhile the former commanding officer, Commodore Nick Cooke-Priest, resigned after he was removed from post for misuse of an official car.
The 65,000-tonne aircraft carrier will depart from Portsmouth today for deployment to the eastern coast of the US where the crew will work with the US navy for operational testing of British F35B Lightning jets.
Capt Moorhouse said: “This is the sixth ship I have been the captain of, it’s been a huge privilege for me in the Royal Navy, and I reckon the average is a flood a week in every ship I have been captain of.
“The design is absolutely world class but it’s inevitable that seals and valves can fail if you haven’t run systems for years, it’s not a surprise.
“Floods are part of the business, the really reassuring thing is that my sailors responded exactly as you would want them to, so all done and dusted, we are ready to sail.”
The dozens of corridors aboard the warship have been named after famous streets of Edinburgh and London to help their sailors feel at home and navigate the labyrinth-style innards of the 900ft-long carrier. Capt Moorhouse said: “They are quite useful. I do not tend to use them but a lot of the sailors do.
“They are there to show the wider links and bonds with our affiliated cities of London and Edinburgh, they are all key roads in these two cities.
“The sign I have noticed is Mansion House, which is in the VIP area, because you are sorely disappointed because it’s not the mansion you were anticipating.”
The carrier will sail along with the Type 45 destroyer HMS Dragon and Type 23 frigate HMS Northumberland to form a small carrier strike group as it rehearses ahead of its first fully operational deployment planned for 2021.
Commodore Mike Utley, commander of the UK maritime strike group, said: “This is a hugely exciting point in the carrier strike programme.
“It’s a massive enterprise of thousands of people that will deploy on this next deployment who will take the next step from being able to operate Lightning aircraft from this ship and put that all together with the broader capability set.”
Captain James Blackmore, Commander Air Group, said that up to seven British jets would take part in the exercises along with up to four US jets.
He said: “We know we can safely fly the aircraft to and from the aircraft carrier, now it’s about making sure we can be mission effective.”