October 25, 2009

Royal Navy carrier plans: going, going . . .

Filed under: Britain, Military — Tags: , , — Nicholas @ 20:34

A report in The Guardian walks a bit further down the road to the increasingly likely end of aircraft carrier operations in the Royal Navy:

Defence chiefs are considering scrapping plans to have two large aircraft carriers equipped with fast jets, a move that could save billions of pounds, Whitehall officials said today.

The idea would be to have just one carrier holding US-made joint strike fighters, with the second, more basic, ship, being used only as a platform for helicopters and possibly unmanned drones equipped with missiles and cameras.

The two proposed carriers, the Queen Elizabeth, due to go into service in 2016, and the Prince of Wales, to follow in 2018, are already running £1bn over budget. The original estimated cost was £3.9bn.

Consideration is being given to cutting the number of joint strike fighters to be flown from the carriers, from 138 to about 50, saving more than £7bn.

The head of the Royal Navy last month conceded that the decision to build two large aircraft carriers could be overturned. Admiral Sir Mark Stanhope said that though contracts had been signed to build the carriers, next year’s defence review could cause those plans to change.

Personally, I suspect that the final decision to cancel the carriers has already been taken, the government is just waiting for an opportune moment to make the announcement. Given that the rest of the fleet has been shrinking for years, eliminating the two carriers would allow the government to “save” an even-more-reduced Royal Navy from further cuts . . . until next budget period.


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