ROYAL Navy aircraft carrier HMS Prince of Wales is limping back closer to shore after breaking down off the Isle of Wight shortly after setting out for exercises off the US coast.

The 65,000-tonne warship left from Portsmouth Naval Base on Saturday before an “emerging mechanical issue” occurred.

The departure of the £3 billion ship had already been delayed from Friday because of a technical problem, although it is not known if the incidents are related.

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The carrier was moving slowly from south east of the Isle of Wight towards Stokes Bay, Gosport, on Monday afternoon where it is understood the sheltered area will make it easier for divers to examine the damage.

The National:

The National:

Specialist website Navy Lookout said the issue was caused by damage to the starboard propeller shaft, although the Ministry of Defence has not commented on this.

A Royal Navy spokesperson said: “HMS Prince of Wales remains in the South Coast Exercise Area while conducting investigations into an emerging mechanical issue.”

The Nato flagship is sailing to undertake training exercises with the US Navy, the Royal Canadian Navy and the US Marine Corps.

The programme is expected to include exercises with the F-35B Lightning jets.