Crew members in the British Royal Navy keep coming up against a pesky, possibly dangerous Achilles' heel as their $1.4 billion warships cruise through the Persian Gulf: warm waters. Water temps there can hit 90 degrees Fahrenheit, and that's causing the ships to lose power, CNN reports. During a Defense Committee meeting Tuesday, MPs interrogated company execs about the Type 45 destroyers—said to be the country's most advanced warships ever and expected to last at least two more decades—and their assessments were less than encouraging. A director from ship designer Rolls-Royce—which claims it was never informed the 8,000-ton ships would sail for long periods in such warm waters, per the Mirror—says that equipment is struggling to perform in "far more arduous conditions [than] were initially required," resulting in "total electrical failure."
The Sun explains what causes the ships to turn into "sitting ducks": There are two turbines on each ship that redistribute exhaust heat back to the engine, but in too-warm waters the turbines slow down; a "domino effect" leads to engine shutdown and, eventually, a complete power outage. Reaction in Parliament was mainly astonishment. "I'm just absolutely stunned," one MP said. "It's a [$1.4 billion] asset that you're putting into perhaps a war zone, and we don't know if these people … will go in there and come back out alive because there might be a problem with the power system on the ship." Britain's Defense Ministry takes issue with these malfunction claims. "The Type 45 was designed for world-wide operations, from sub-Arctic to extreme tropical environments, and continues to operate effectively in the Gulf and the South Atlantic all year round," a rep tells CNN. (More British Royal Navy stories.)