Bristling with cutting-edge technology and carrying an awesome array of weaponry, the Royal Navy’s new destroyer HMS Dauntless is said to be one of the world’s most sophisticated and powerful warships.
But the £1 billion vessel was left helpless and stranded – when a £10 fuse apparently blew.
Dauntless was left without power and plunged into darkness.
According to one source on board, the ship was ‘drifting for several minutes’ before the fault was corrected.
No official cause for the problem has been given, but Navy insiders suggested that the fuse blew because a complicated water-cooling system had not been adjusted to take account of the fact that the destroyer had entered an area of higher sea and air temperatures.
The incident involving the 500ft-long Type 45 destroyer happened last Sunday off the coast of Senegal, West Africa.
Dauntless is the first of the Navy’s six new Type 45 destroyers to operate in tropical waters.
The incident is a huge embarrassment to the Ministry of Defence and Dauntless’s commander, Captain Will Warrender, particularly as his 190-strong crew had spent the previous week training sailors from Senegal, Gambia and Morocco on how to board suspect vessels.
The Navy described last week’s incident as an example of the ‘teething problems’ that are experienced by many new ships – even though Dauntless joined the Fleet in November 2010.
A source said: ‘It’s a bit like somebody buying a dishwasher or a tumble dryer and taking it home to find it doesn’t work at first, or moving into a new house where the plaster cracks after six months and then it’s fine after that.
‘This was a minor problem which lasted only two minutes. The crew will have learned from it and it won’t happen again.’
Officials insisted Dauntless was ‘under command’ at all times.
Responding to suggestions that the ship was drifting for several minutes, Naval sources insisted Dauntless was not moving because the Captain ordered that the engines be turned over slowly, allowing the twin propellers to keep the ship stationary.
This is a procedure known as ‘feathering’ the propellers.
The 8,000-ton Dauntless, which is due to patrol the South Atlantic for the next six months on her maiden operational deployment, has a range of 7,000 nautical miles and boasts a top speed of more than 30 knots.
Her state-of-the-art radar system is said to be capable of tracking an object the size of a cricket ball travelling at three times the speed of sound.
The system allows the destroyer to build up a three-dimensional picture of up to 1,000 ships and aircraft simultaneously at ranges of 220 miles.
She also carries Sea Viper anti-aircraft missiles costing £1 million each.
Dauntless was the second of the six new Type 45 destroyers to be commissioned.
The total cost of the project to the Navy was £6.5 billion – £1.5 billion more than the original estimate.
In 2007, the Commons Defence Select Committee expressed its disappointment that the Ministry of Defence and defence contractor BAE Systems had failed to control rising costs.
The first of the class, HMS Daring, was commissioned in 2009, followed by Dauntless, HMS Diamond and HMS Dragon.
Two more ships are under construction and are due for completion by 2013.
A Royal Navy spokesman said last night: ‘HMS Dauntless was not left drifting and her propellers did not stop.
‘An electrical overload did occur and to ensure that essential systems remained powered, low priority systems were briefly isolated until the problem was fixed.
‘Every new class of ship has teething problems.
‘Ships have their own characteristics and it takes time for the ship’s company to learn them in every environment.’