A £3 BILLION Royal Navy warship that was “cannibalised” for parts has set off for the US after a year’s delay.

The HMS Prince of Wales originally set sail across the Atlantic in August 2022.

However, it was forced to turn around after a major mechanical failure less than 24 hours into the crossing.

The vessel, which was built at Rosyth Dockyard between 2011 and 2019, was due to be ready for frontline duties by 2023.

But as a result of a broken propeller shaft the HMS Prince of Wales was sent back to dry dock at Babcock Shipyard in Scotland and subsequently “cannibalised” for parts in order to replace elements within another vessel: her sister ship the HMS Queen Elizabeth.

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Then defence secretary Ben Wallace said this was “perfectly normal” and that the ship would return to service by autumn.

It is estimated that repairs to the 65,000-tonne vessel cost around £25 million.

Now, it has finally set off on its journey to the US where the carrier will carry out exercises with drones for delivering supplies without the use of helicopters, landing and launching F-35B Lightning stealth fighters and operating with Osprey tilt rotor aircraft from the US Marine Corps.

Commanding officer Captain Richard Hewitt said: “We are all excited for the longest deployment of HMS Prince of Wales.

“Being the first to operate with this level of drones will be a huge achievement and keep us on the front foot as we prepare for the next major Carrier Strike Group deployment in 2025.”

The carrier and its 750-strong crew are set to return to the UK by Christmas.