MercoPress, en Español

Montevideo, December 9th 2022 - 07:13 UTC



UK without a fully operational aircraft carrier until 2030, says spending watchdog

Wednesday, November 30th 2011 - 00:19 UTC
Full article 17 comments
HMS Queen Elizabeth and HMS Prince of Wales were saved from the axe it would cost more to cancel the projects than to proceed with them. HMS Queen Elizabeth and HMS Prince of Wales were saved from the axe it would cost more to cancel the projects than to proceed with them.

Britain may be without a fully operational aircraft carrier until 2030, according to a report published by the Commons spending watchdog. The Public Accounts Committee (PAC) says two carriers being built will cost more, offer less military capability and be ready much later than planned.

It says the Royal Navy will be without a carrier until 2020, which may not be fully operational until 2030. The PAC also says the cost of scaling back the carriers is not fully known.

The committee said the adjustments made to the vessels meant just £600m cash savings and some costs would not be known for 12 months. The government says it expects to save £4.4bn over 10 years on the program.

The ships - HMS Queen Elizabeth and HMS Prince of Wales - were saved from defence cuts under the coalition government because, it said, it would cost more to cancel the projects than to proceed with them.

In last year's strategic defence review, ministers agreed to change the design of one, or both, of the aircraft carriers to make them compatible with the US Navy's version of the Joint Strike Fighter, rather than the short take-off, vertical-landing (STOVL) version that had been planned.

HMS Prince of Wales will not enter service - it will be built but not kitted out, and then kept as a reserve vessel - while HMS Queen Elizabeth is expected to go into service around 2020, with both said to cost £5.9bn.

The government says the two carriers were already £1.6bn over budget when it came to power - and says changes in the defence review reduced overall spending on the “carrier strike program” by £4.4bn over 10 years.

But the cross-party public accounts committee said the figure quoted for withdrawing the carriers and Harrier jump jets and converting one to use “catapult and arrestor gear” was actually £3.4bn - much of which was simply being deferred until after 2021.

The committee's Labour chairman Margaret Hodge said: “While the department believes the decision will save £3.4bn, only £600m of this constitutes cash savings, with the other 80% simply deferred costs.”

The report also says there is “considerable uncertainty” about the costs of modifying one of the carriers to accommodate a different type of fighter jet - and the full costs would not be known until December 2012.

While the change had reduced the technical risks associated with the STOVL aircraft - the fact that its full costs would not be known for another year left the project “at risk of cost growth and slippage”, the report said.

And it added there were other technical risks associated with integrating new aircraft with the carriers and suggested full carrier strike capability might not be achieved until 2030.

The committee said the Ministry of Defence had “concentrated on immediate cash savings and short-term affordability, and did not focus strongly on long-term value for money”.

Mrs Hodge said: “Rather than two carriers, available from 2016 and 2018, at a cost of £3.65bn, we will now spend more than £6bn, get one operational carrier and have no aircraft carrier capability until 2020 - almost a decade.”

Labour said the report showed there was a “gaping hole” in the government's credibility on defence.

Shadow defence secretary Jim Murphy said: “It is high time ministers took responsibility for their actions. The rushed, Treasury-driven defence review left Britain without aircraft flying from an aircraft carrier for a decade.”

But Defence Secretary Philip Hammond said the government was trying to get the MoD's finances “back into balance” having inherited a “black hole” from Labour.

He stressed the two aircraft carriers were already £1.6bn over budget when the coalition came to power - and said government spending cuts would save £4.4bn over 10 years on the carrier strike program.


Categories: Politics, International.

Top Comments

Disclaimer & comment rules
  • briton

    this was a false report, the 2nd carrier will carry the new planes, not the first, you have to go to the site and read it properly,

    Nov 30th, 2011 - 12:47 am 0
  • Teaboy2

    Agreed the report it is false. We wil still have one carrier ready by 2016-18 though no jets till 2020, though even then we will not have a full load of jets till 2030 from what i read.

    Though good news is we still have the harriers in mothball, and the engines are started up regularly still, just incase they need to be brought back into service. And although the aircraft carrier still in service is now a helicopter ship, the runway is still on it and the harrier can take off vertically with a partial weapons load out and land vertically. Which as a benefit of not being able to take of via use of the runway, atleats 6-7 harriers can take of at the exact same time instead of one at a time.

    Nov 30th, 2011 - 02:16 am 0
  • briton

    . Meanwhile, Janes' continues to report that Prince of Wales is the Strike Carrier.
    While Prince of Wales - the second of class for which manufacturing activities began in May 2011 - will be configured for CV operations from build, the advanced state of work on Queen Elizabeth has meant that the the retrofit of catapults and arrestor gear would be impractical without major disruption to the build program. Queen Elizabeth will therefor be completed in 2016 to the original STOVL configuration (minus ski-jump) and enter service to prove the platform, provide crew training and achieve rotary wing clearances. Queen Elizabeth will then enter a state of extended readiness around 2019 when Prince of Wales enters service.

    July 7, 2011 - The NAO has published its Carrier Strike report, which proves the forecasts appeared on this blog right.

    It is Prince of Wales that gets converted, and not Queen Elizabeth as many, press included, erroneously reported for a long time. QE will enter service as LPH in 2016, and also allow deck crew to familiarize with the carrier, and in 2020 PoW will enter service as Carrier Strike.

    13 September 2011 - It is official: HMS Prince of Wales will be the Carrier Strike vessel, fitted at build with EMALS catapults. Liam Fox confirmed it speaking to Jane's in the run-up to the Defence Security and Equipment International (DSEi) exhibition, held in London from 13-16 September.

    “We now have a slot for the EMALS catapult system being fitted. It will be fitted first of all to the Gerald R Ford , then the next slot will be for the British carrier and the next slot will be for the American John F Kennedy carrier. So we've got that confirmed from the Americans now; the Americans have successfully tested it.”

    It is now evident that QE will be completed as LPH, at least initially, and she's likely to represent the immediate solution to replace HMS Ocean, potentially as early as 2016

    Nov 30th, 2011 - 02:50 am 0
Read all comments

Commenting for this story is now closed.
If you have a Facebook account, become a fan and comment on our Facebook Page!