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UK aircraft carrier plans in confusion as ministers revisit square one

Discussion in 'The Americas' started by Rehan123, Mar 2, 2012.

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  1. Rehan123

    Rehan123 2nd Lieutant FULL MEMBER

    Jan 5, 2012
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    UK aircraft carrier plans in confusion as ministers revisit square one
    Decision expected by Easter on which US joint strike fighter Britain will buy: ministers now want to revert to original choice

    Richard Norton-Taylor
    guardian.co.uk, Thursday 1 March 2012 19.21 GMT

    A US joint strike fighter. The UK is deciding whether to buy the cheaper 'cats and flaps' version or revert to the vertical-landing model. Photograph: Joely Santiago/AP

    Britain's troubled and increasingly expensive plan to equip the navy with new aircraft carriers has been plunged into fresh turmoil as ministers consider reversing their earlier decision to change the type of plane that should fly from them, it has emerged.

    The government announced in last autumn's strategic defence review that it had decided to buy the "cats and flaps" (catapults and arrester gear) version of the US joint strike fighter. This would have a "longer range and greater payload ... the critical requirement for precision-strike operations in the future", the government stated.

    Moreover, the government added, it will be cheaper. It would also enable French planes to land on British carriers, and vice versa, inkeeping with the new UK-French defence spirit of co-operation.

    Now, in an extraordinary volte-face, the Ministry of Defence says the "cats and flaps" planes may well be cheaper but it would be too expensive to redesign a carrier – more than £1bn – to accommodate them. The ministry is thus faced with the prospect of renegotiating a deal with the US, reverting to its original plan – namely buying the short take-off and vertical landing version of the aircraft, even though it is acknowledged to be less effective and more expensive .

    The latest chapter in the troubled saga of Britain's future aircraft carriers – whose own estimated costs have soared – was raised on Thursday in a letter to the defence secretary, Philip Hammond, from Jim Murphy, his Labour opposite number.

    Murphy referred to "worrying suggestions" that the government was about to change its mind about the kind of aircraft to buy from the US. "It is vital that there is now clarity on the government's plans for this vital area of the defence equipment programme," he wrote.

    Murphy said the decision in the defence review to scrap the Harrier fleet meant the UK would have no carrier aircraft capability until 2020 – and then only one carrier would be operational.

    Defence officials said that the government was "re-assessing" its earlier decision because, they indicated, of pressures on the defence budget.

    HMS Queen Elizabeth, the first carrier, will be mothballed immediately it is launched in 2016, according to existing plans. The second, HMS Prince of Wales, will be able to put to sea by 2020, but it is not known how many planes will be able to fly from it – nor what kind.

    The two carriers, originally priced at £3.5bn, are now estimated to cost £6.2bn. According to the Commons public accounts committee, the cost is likely to icrease to as much as £12bn.

    The government, which originally said it wanted more than 100 joint strike fighters, says that it will have just six operational ones by 2020. The unit cost of the joint strike fighter, made by Lockheed Martin, has soared because of production problems and delays caused by US defence budget cuts. Britain's BAE Systems and Rolls-Royce have big stakes in a future deal adapting the joint strike fighter for British forces.

    A spokesperson for the MoD said: "We are currently finalising the 2012-13 budget and balancing the equipment plan. As part of this process, we are reviewing all programmes, including elements of the carrier strike programme, to validate costs and ensure risks are properly managed. The defence secretary expects to announce the outcome of this process to parliament before Easter."
  2. Vritra

    Vritra Major ELITE MEMBER

    Feb 10, 2011
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    Weak argument.

    Life cycle costs of the F-35B easily upset the £1 billion extra per carrier to redesign. F-35 saves more in the long run. More panic from "ministers" here because there's a cash shortage at the moment.

    And despite the bally-hoo about the Typhoon's rejection from India, the Naval-Typhoon proposal is noticably absent from proceedings. Hmm...
  3. Manmohan Yadav

    Manmohan Yadav Brigadier STAR MEMBER

    Jul 1, 2011
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    Country Flag:
    Cant they just got for Rafale :tongue:
  4. Guynextdoor

    Guynextdoor Lt. Colonel SENIOR MEMBER

    Aug 24, 2010
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    I think UK should shut down the carrier project and offer it to India. As a small and insignificant country with no standing they don't need it anyway. :mrgreen:
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