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Aircraft carrier costs to rise by at least a billion (again)

Robert Peston | 07:00 UK time, Thursday, 28 April 2011

The cost of Britain's controversial new aircraft carriers is set to rise by at least £1bn, and perhaps almost £2bn, as a result of the government's decision taken last October to make them compatible with different aircraft than those originally envisaged.

Computer generated image of proposed aircraft carrier

I have learned that the working assumption of the contractors on the project, which are BAE Systems, Thales UK and Babcock, is that the carriers will now cost taxpayers some £7bn in total, compared with the £5.2bn cost disclosed by the Ministry of Defence last autumn - and up from the £3.9bn budget announced when the contract was originally signed in July 2008.

One defence industry veteran said the final bill was bound to be nearer £10bn, though a government official insisted that was way over the top.

The Ministry of Defence and the Treasury believe that total final costs could be nearer £6bn, if only one of the carriers is reconfigured to take the preferred version of America's Joint Strike Fighter aircraft.

An MoD official said no final decision had been taken on whether the first carrier to be built, the Queen Elizabeth, or the second carrier, the Prince of Wales, or both would be reconfigured.

He said it would probably be the case that changing the design specification for the Prince of Wales would be the cheapest option. But if that happened, it is not clear when - if ever - the Queen Elizabeth, due to enter service in 2019, would actually be able to accommodate jets (as opposed to helicopters).

Whatever happens, the increase in the bill will be substantial - and is only regarded by the Treasury as affordable because the increment is likely to be incurred later than 2014/15, when the expenditure constraints put in place by the Chancellor's spending review come to an end.

The Treasury is adamant that the MoD will receive no leeway to increase spending before then.

An MoD spokesman sent me the following statement late last night:

"The conversion of the Queen Elizabeth Class...will allow us to operate the carrier variant of the Joint Strike Fighter that carries a greater payload, has a longer range and is cheaper to purchase. This will give our new carriers, which will be in service for 50 years, greater capability and interoperability with our allies. Final costs are yet to be agreed and detailed work is ongoing. We expect to take firm decisions in late 2012."

The disclosure of the rise in costs is bound to reopen the debate about whether the UK really needs new carriers, especially since the UK will be without any aircraft carrier till 2019, following the decision to decommission Ark Royal.

The Royal Navy aircraft carrier HMS Ark Royal

British Tornado jets are currently active in Libya, flying from a base in Italy, without the use of a British aircraft carrier.

The latest increase in likely expenditure on the enormous carriers - which are almost the size of three football pitches - stems from the decision of the Ministry of Defence in October to change the design one or both of them so that they can be used by the carrier version of America's Joint Strike Fighter.

This would mean they have to be fitted with catapults and traps - or "cats and traps" - rather than ramps.

The likely final cost will depend on whether the cats and traps are cheaper traditional steam devices, or newer-technology electromagnetic ones - and also whether the cats and traps are fitted to both carriers or just one.

Industry and government sources tell me that even if the MoD goes for the cheaper option, and even if the cats and traps are fitted to only one carrier, the additional bill will still be of the order of £1bn.

The hope however would be that in the longer term savings could be achieved because the maintenance costs of the more conventional Joint Strike Fighter should be lower.

One of the reasons the refit could be relatively more expensive is that for one of the carriers, HMS Queen Elizabeth, there would have to be a retrofit - because so much work has already been done on it.

"Retrofitting is always very pricey" said a senior defence executive.

The carrier project has been beset by controversy and cost increases.

In June 2009, I disclosed that the carrier costs had soared by more than £1bn as a result of a decision taken by the previous government to delay their entry into service.

Then last October the government, in its Strategic Defence and Security Review, came close to cancelling one or both carriers.

In the end, it committed to build both, but with the strange caveat that it might end up using only one of them. This was the reason given by the Prime Minister David Cameron in the Commons for building both:

"They [the previous government] signed contracts so we were left in a situation where even cancelling the second carrier would actually cost more than to build it; I have this in written confirmation from BAE Systems".

However in a memo to the House of Commons Public Accounts Committee (PAC), the Ministry of Defence estimated that cancelling both contracts would have saved £2bn and cancelling just one would have saved £1bn.

The MoD told MPs that "as the cancellation costs would have had immediate effect, the costs in the short term would have been significantly higher than proceeding with both carriers as planned; nearly £1bn more in financial year 2011/12 if both carriers had been cancelled".

The MoD was also concerned that cancelling the carriers would have undermined British capability and know-how in the manufacture of complex warships.

The carriers, called Queen Elizabeth Class Aircraft Carriers, are being built by the Aircraft Carrier Alliance, whose members are the UK defence giant BAE systems, the British engineering group Babcock, and Thales of France. The Ministry of Defence is also described as both a member of the Alliance and a customer.

Update 15:06:It has been pointed out to me, by what you might term a grizzled sea dog, that the UK does still possess two ships that can take aircraft. They are HMS Illustrious and HMS Ocean (which is a commando carrier with a flat top).

However they can't accommodate jet airplanes, only helicopters - so for veteran sailor it was a terrible error for the government to scrap the illustrious Harrier jumpjet.

He also takes the view, which I've heard from many other military personnel, that it would be bonkers to convert only one of the new carriers to take the carrier version of the Joint Strike Fighter - because if that were to happen, one of the carriers would be an enormous white elephant, and the other would not be able to provide a service for 100% of the time (it would need periodic servicing).

That said, the cost of retro-fitting the first carrier being built now and also redesigning the other one would certainly be nudging £2bn, maybe more.

He believes there is powerful strategic logic to building two new huge ships able to handle jets.

The problem for David Cameron is that he may find it hard to make the strategic case, since last autumn he justified building the two on the basis that it would not save any money to cancel one - which is not the most positive case for what turns out to be a very substantial public investment that anyone has ever advanced.

Comments

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  • Comment number 1.

    Perhaps we should have kept the Ark Royal and the Sea Harriers ????

  • Comment number 2.

    Another fine mess produced by a Lab/Con/Lib coalition of the short-sighted and incompetent.
    "They [the previous government] signed contracts so we were left in a situation where even cancelling the second carrier would actually cost more than to build it; I have this in written confirmation from BAE Systems".
    So said DC but what are the costs of building it/them? At least the costs wont escalate if there is a cancellation. Left to run the inevitable will result – further escalation of costs and specification changes will bring the final bill to at least the £10Bn top end estimate. If we can manage until 2019 with none why on earth do we need two?

  • Comment number 3.

    Why is anyone surprised?

    Just go to the Public Accounts committee website and look at their reports on MOD procurement. This last decade at least they haven't completed a single substantial project on budget, to the agreed delivery schedule and that actually fully met the key performance criteria.

    Who's side are the MOD on? Certainly not our troops or the taxpayers! If we fired at least 50% of them we could save a load of money with no significant impact on delivery as often there isn't any eg Nimrod or not worth having eg the original SA rifle.

    And the £35 billion black hole in the MOD "budget" ( actually short for "budge it" to any number you can get away with) just got even blacker.

    Will anyone ever sort out the Ministry of Deadbeats?

  • Comment number 4.

    Air power is the decisive force in conventional warfare - and as an island which is heavily dependent on trade, our ability to keep our shipping lanes open and to defend and support our allies is critical to keeping us supplied with food, energy and to keep UK PLC making money.

    The debate over vertical takeoff/landing (VTOL) capability for maritime combat aircraft is a complex one - the Harrier's incredible flexibility is legendary and the capability of VTOL aircraft to operate without landing strips gives commanders the capability to provide close air support, strike and air supremacy which may well be critical in a world where the sort of challenge that the Somali pirates pose extends across a large part of the globe, as our exploding world's population demands evermore energy, food and raw materials, which are running out.

    If the UK is dependent on land based aircraft, there are clearly large swathes of the world where we have no allies, this would mean no air cover and whilst drone technology is developing fast, it will be decades until there is an air superiority drone fighter capable of beating manned fighter aircraft.

    Clearly a VTOL fast jet aircraft has advantages over a catapaulted one, as well as some disadvantages. The debate about the cost of the new carriers needs to address the issue of whether we should abandon all VTOL capability completely - and whether the additional cost of fitting catapaults and arrestor gear is justified by cost savings on the non VTOL aircraft.

    The US is going to acquire VTOL JSF - the Marine Corps is totally sold on VTOL, that's why they bought into the Harrier programme which was a British concept that has repeatedly proven its worth.

    I'm afraid I see a different agenda in fitting catapaults at this huge additional cost - this would allow non UK carrier launched aircraft of the French, US and potentially other forces to use these vessels - and therefore to make them saleable to other nations too.

    Without carriers the Navy is reduced to a small surface fleet and a submarine nuclear strike plus Astute hunter killer/special ops. capability, unable to operate safely in areas of the world where there are hostile airforces with air superiority - with them there are no no-go areas for our forces.

    This is exactly the same mistake we made after the Boer War, the First and Second World Wars and the same mistake the US made that left them very vulnerable after Pearl Harbor - cutting defence spending is always a gamble - that a threat won't app

  • Comment number 5.

    How much did it cost UK taxpayers to get the Communist Chinese to build the huge crane BAe will be using to assemble these carriers?


  • Comment number 6.

    A stratospheric-like expensive white elephant of an obsolete weapons system. I know why not spend some more money that we don't have on Trident which we don't need as well.

  • Comment number 7.

    Now you know where BAE Systems got its name from - BIG AND EXPENSIVE!

  • Comment number 8.

    My dear Mr Peston, a good well balanced report from you. However, the proposed new carriers are a very long way from "enormous", they are about half the size (and aircraft carrying capacity) of a current US carrier. Many many socialists and non military people question the need for the UK to be able to "Strike from the sea". I am afraid that in the current, and predicted future world political climate, the uk inability to do so is an act of folly bordering upon a treasonable act. A perfect example of what would have been sensible deployment of a UK carrier is already evident, had we still got Ark, or Invincible, or Illustrious, they would be off the coast of Libya right now, not reliant upon an Italian airfield to launch aircraft, but with the ability to do so independently. Your friend "the fool" Blair, and the miserly Brown saw fit to continually delay the replacement carriers, which sir, if you check your facts, were due to be built by NINETEEN NINETY SEVEN, or in simple english, something approaching TWENTY years ago, and you express surprise that modifications need to be made?? And that the cost is rising? Well, as an economist, what do you expect? Let me help you from a military point of view, if we look at twenty years of developement in the military, do you seriously think that the carrier design still fits? Had this theory been applied in the early fifties, then HM Ships Eagle, Victorious and the like would have been constructed to take petrol engined biplanes rather than the early jet aircraft. Our current generation of politicians (of all persuasions) seem to enjoy sabre rattling (Iraq, Afghanistan and Libya being perfect examples), yet seem reluctant to provide the funds for the "Sabres". Neglect of the defence of the realm is the worst crime a politician can commit, unfortunately, they are only found guilty by history (The early years of WWII were a "Damn close run thing" due to earlier political neglect). I imagine that you return home Mr Peston, to some attractive detached house in a leafy suburb, and good for you that you do so. But may I suggest that if you wish to continue to do so, and indeed to live in peace and freedom, you and your friends at the BBC show a little more support for the military, or you may wake up one morning and find the that your residence is no longer yours, and that your children are being forcibly marched to the local mosque - or indeed, speaking fluent mandarin. As regards the lack of british aircraft carriers, well, procrastination is the thief of time. We may yet pay for the fact that our politicians neglect their very first duty.

  • Comment number 9.

    Given the scale of public sector cuts in other areas (NHS, Schools etc.) why are the MoD seemingly exempt from cutting their costs. This should have been one of the first area's to feel the cost-cutting and the savings spent on equipment to keep troops a bit (or a lot!) safer.

  • Comment number 10.

    If we are going to cancel theses vessels now would be the time, before we spend the money, unlike the Nimrod rebuild which was cancelled shortly before delivery at the cost of £4bn. the prospect of theses leviathans being built and scraped is unthinkable even with the penalties in place, given the inevitable cost overrun, (even £3bn per vessel was always rather fanciful) we would still save money

  • Comment number 11.

    Its a bit of a stretch referring to BAe as a "UK defence giant" - nowadays they're essentially a US defence contractor with a significant, but decreasing, UK presence.

  • Comment number 12.

    It's about time we cancelled all foreign aid and spent that money here in the UK.

  • Comment number 13.

    Yeah, we definitely need the carriers, really we need both of them, both fully converted to "cat and trap". Unfortunately, we put BAE in the loop, which means, much like the Eurofighter, the Nimrods, etc. we are going to get screwed.

    Whilst making the carriers "cat and trap" will cost £1bn+ it will save far more than that when (or if) we come to actually buy some fighters for it. Not only is the F35C substantially cheaper than the F35B, both in terms of purchase cost but also maintenance but it also opens our options up beyond the F35 to other cheaper options, if we so desire them.

    We probably should have kept our pocket carriers and the Harriers for a few more years and got rid of some of the vastly unnecessary Tornadoes that we have no need for. Yes, we're currently flying them from Italy but at what cost? They need to be refueled in the air at least twice just to drop a payload on Libya. Even if we had kept our carriers though we would still have to operate Typhoons from Italy as cover for them. Unfortunately our pocket carriers cannot operate fighter patrols in the Med due to inadequate thrust from the VTOL jets to land them with their missiles unfired!

  • Comment number 14.

    Am I mistaken or did the then defence secretary John Hutton announce to parliament that the carriers would be an adaptable design fitted for but not with catapults and arrestor gear? Therefore why is there a requirement to modify the deck, surely if the Def Sec statement was true then it should not have been a major problem, or is there something untoward going on? To build a carrier of this size to carry helicopters is a nonsense. Ramps are to accomodate Harriers on the very short Invincible class. They are not required by US on their larger Tarawa class assualt ships. Most Harriers will be out of service around the world in 2020 so who would buy the second carrier if not fitted with cat and trap? STOVL is an interesting concept designed for the percieved need of the cold war. But now only of value at air shows.

  • Comment number 15.

    Mick White - are you serious, if you believe the MOD has not been forced to make cuts in the last year then you have been living on another planet.

    I have to say Robert I am a little disappointed at the skew of this article, to coin a phrase from one of our American neighbours this blog appears to be neither fair nor balanced.

    The argument that we do not need a Carrier Strike capability and this has been proven by Libya is utterly vacuous. It proves the opposite, in that this government still wishes for Britain to get involved militarily in areas away from our borders, we cannot always guarantee an ally will be around to conveniently provide us with airfields!

  • Comment number 16.

    Thanks Gordon Brown for arranaging to spend some much money on something it appears that we cannot afford...Oh and for spending it quite near to his own constituency!

    Has he ever been made to explain this?

  • Comment number 17.

    I just don't get many of the comments on here banging on about the need or not for various bits of "kit" for strategic military purposes.

    You're missing the point!

    Even when its agreed we need it for strategic defence purposes we don't get it because the MOD management of procurement is a national disgrace! Thats the issue here!

    For virtually the whole of my life absolutely nothing of any scale has been delivered by the MOD on budget, virtually nothing on time and very little that actually works as intended without even further expenditure and time.

    You cannot keep squandering money the way the MOD has and then complain that there isn't enough money. In fact so much extra has been found ( or needs to be found) that there is a £35 billion hole in the procurement budget to cover MOD management incompetence.

    Just how much more money should we let these incompetents waste on late delivered projects which don't work properly, if at all?

    A major refit at the MOD is what is needed most of all.

  • Comment number 18.

    Disingenious, Peston. Not like you. You dont suppose that this one billion increase is in any way to do with the fudging and pushing back of the costs of the carriers undertaken by the Brown administration?

    And since when have you been a chuffin' defence expert, eh?

    After listening to that sorry excuse of the Today programme this morning (which may as well have been a Labour Party Broadcast) what the hell has got into you lot in White City today? Lets give the tories a kicking for everything Brown screwed up? Did that business with Maria Eagle yesterday really cheese you lot off that much???

  • Comment number 19.

    Could the BBC to stop peddling the lie that there are no carriers? There is a perfectly good carrier called Illustrious that the Harriers can fly from. The facts are:

    1.Carriers are flexible and last a very long time.
    2. We're currently spending £30m a week over Libya, to achieve less than one sortie per plane, per day, burning lots and lots of fuel in the process whilst everyone stays in fancy hotels. If we had a carrier with Harriers, it would be an awful lot cheaper and more efficient - equipment costs aside, fuel and accommodation would be drastically slashed.
    WE DO HAVE A CARRIER.

  • Comment number 20.

    The procurement of the MOD is crap -

    BAE bonuses for this year and the years to come will be sky high, as the contract does not allow any changes at any agreed rates , only BAE's required costs.

    This all stems from Gordon Browns "protection" of the scottish ship yards which ensured the contracts could not be cancelled without massive penalty costs.

    After decades of cost + and the tax payer being ripped off we have learnt nothing. Government should be taken out of the loop on these strategic decisions they continually screw the tax payer with their incompetence.

  • Comment number 21.

    The carriers where originally commissioned to operate Harriers, the coalition's Defence Review has de-commissioned them, so now the carriers have to be re-worked to take conventional carrier-borne aircraft.
    If they don't re-work both of them, one will be an expensive(for us the tax-payer) white elephant..
    This coalition of the right are all about short-term decisions based on cuts, what a fiasco their 'Strategic' Defence Review is turning out to be.

  • Comment number 22.

    8**

    Aircraft carriers are a waste of space and Libya is the perfect example of why we should do without. Bombing third party countries for what -NOTHING except death to others or don't you watch the news....

    We are not an "Empire" , while we pour 5% of our GDP in defence , other nations spend 50% less and pour the rest in Education . In the long run these white elephant schemes will just be like Gordon Brown's PFI schemes - a stone weight around our necks for the next 30 years....

  • Comment number 23.

    Much confused thinking and inaccuracies amongst these posts. It was the Strategic Defence Review of 1997 commisioned by the then newly-elected Labour government that decided to equip the RN with a full sized CVN to replace the 3 Invincibles. It was never expected to be in service within 10-15 years due to the size and complexity of the project. The original decision to procure the STOVL version of the F-35 was a strange one given the ships diidnt need that capability and the catapult launched version was available sooner, has a greater range and payload and is less complex. I suspect it was driven more by the RAF needing the STOVL capability to replace its Harrier fleet and the desire for a single interoperable design. I also suspect the "flexiiblity" of the legendary Harrier is much over-rated, no other NATO air arm bought into the concept and its maritime deployment was confined to half-size, 2nd level sea control ships in the RN,USMC, India, Spain and Italy. The full sized carrier strategy makes sense if we seriously want a global capability -and I will let others debate that, but all of the full scale shooting wars since the end of the Cold War that the politicans have taken us into have been outside of Europe (with the exception of Bosnia) and needed local air power. Far more significant is that the 2nd QE will not be fitted out. I would be willing to bet an MP's 2nd home that will be sold off to France, India or China before it is ever launched..

  • Comment number 24.

    We can only hope and pray, that once we build these behemoths, they don't get hijacked by Somali pirates, imagine the ransom demand !

  • Comment number 25.

    Labour Ministers were told repeatedly about aircraft gap, and lack of alignment with carrier timing. This joins many incompetent decisions made by string of Brown's MoD ministers, perhaps pressure to create work for Brown's constituency. Having got stuck with contract it only makes sense to make the carriers capable of handling the range of potential aircraft that may be available.

  • Comment number 26.

    It's rather concerning that media commentators believe that the aircraft carriers are a controversial defence procurement project.

    The Royal Navy is a vital force for the UK; not only is it crucial in protecting the lifelines of our economy but it is the key enabler that allows the United Kingdom to deploy her sovereign force practically anywhere in the world and support such an expeditionary force both logisitically and in firepower. In this the expeditionary forces of the Royal Navy are critical to the ability of the UK to respond to, react to and defeat threats abroad before they can come to harm our shores or citizens.

    The Aircraft Carriers of the Royal Navy are key!!!!! The Royal Air Force cannot deploy irregardless, they are reliant on secure bases within range of the operating environment. An aircraft carrier provides a secure air base, capable of manouevring as demanded by any situation. One carrier is worth more than all the raf bases in the UK in our ability to deploy air power to the battlefield. Providing increased protection for the troops on the ground. We can all concentrate on Afghanistan if the media wants us to but defence procurement is a long process and investing in a flexible highly capable asset allowing the UK to deploy her forces anywhere in the world with vital air support would seem rather sensible when a means of accurately predicting the future is not at our disposal.

    If you Mr Preston would like to take up a bet with me that we will never again have to deploy British Forces overseas, or even British air power alone then I will happily take your money. I guarantee to you sir the carriers will be deployed significantly over their lifespan, underlying their importance to our ability to deploy force and British power abroad. Please contact me with the bet, I wish the government had when they withdrew the harrier GR9 & sea harrier prematurely as I could have earnt much from Libya but alas it appears they wish to gamble in lives rather than monetary values.

  • Comment number 27.

    We should also remember that aircraft carriers are more than just mobile marine airfields. They can be a mobile operations base, which can support both military and humanitarian needs. I certainly think completing the project completely (using both carriers and VTOL aircraft) is worth every penny; as long as it is used to it's full capability.

    The again, I think scrapping the Harriers was a stupid idea.

  • Comment number 28.

    All of this would be of little consequence if we still had plenty of money. Unfortunately, those greedy bankers put a stop to that, and now we have to suffer this penny pinching. I expect Argentina will snatch the Falklands soon.

    And what little money we have left is being spent on some running and jumping contests in London, 2012.

    If we sack the bankers and cut the running and jumping, we could afford to defend ourselves!

  • Comment number 29.

    It is costing Britain a fortune to fly and attack Libya. Now if we still had our aircraft carrier and sent it out there, it would be a quarter of the cost but no, we did not need the aircraft carrier anymore our goverment says but hey you happy to spend billions on another country who lets us land and take off to attack Libya!
    Just shows we do need our aircraft carrier!

  • Comment number 30.

    22. At 10:21am 28th Apr 2011, hughesz wrote:

    > these white elephant schemes will just be like Gordon Brown's PFI schemes - a
    > stone weight around our necks for the next 30 years....

    The knuckle-headed MoD spokesman told Robert that the new carriers "will be in service for 50 years". He's got high hopes - they'll be rusted out-hulks in half that time.

  • Comment number 31.

    Q. When is a legal contract not a legal contract at all?
    A. When the Ministry of Defence is one of the parties to it.

    Whenever I have entered into a binding contract, I have fulfilled it, and I expect the other party to fulfil its obligations too. I have never agreed to revise written estimates or promises. I just cannot understand how naive the MOD has been, especially under Labour's administration. It should operate along the same lines as any commercial undertaking, and not be in a position to seek blank cheques every time a supplier asks for more.

  • Comment number 32.

    To defend ourselfves we need this capacity more than ever. Liam Fox is talking about putting British troops on the Ground in Lybia without British Air cover. We have to plan now that Arabian will burn for the next 20 years before they become stable democracies and that we cannot depend on the Americans as Lybia has just proved. Mr Preston stop the inflamitary comments designed to wind up every cost cutting Lid Dem these weapon systems are needed to ensure defence of realm

  • Comment number 33.

    So the cost of 1 aircraft carrier could be as much as the BBC costs a year. I know I'd choose the aircraft carriers every time. At least we'd have a ship DEFENDING Britain, rather than attacking it !
    Why aren't all choices so easy to make? Maybe more public goods should be compared to the BBC? Or could it be that £3.5 billion a year for the BBC is just too much? Answers to Mark Thompson/Lord Patten, please.

  • Comment number 34.

    If council leaders can be sent to jail for mishandling of public funds, why can't ministers of the Crown? Assuming they can, why isn't there an investigation taking place?

  • Comment number 35.

    The need for an Aircraft carrier is clear and very well defined. However I want to start with the increase in cost for the carrier.

    This increase in cost allows us to buy the cheaper, less maintenence intensive and more capable F35C. The requirement for the F35B from the start was a debatable choice due to the size of the carriers making them more optimised for CATOBAR role with all the benfits that it brings.

    As for the need for our carriers I would like to point out that we scrapped them perviously when the RAF said it could deliver air support anywhere in the world. THe RN not believing this sneaked our small invincible class in as a "stop gap". If we hadn't we would have lost the Falklands. Nor would we have been able to hold the GIUK gap in the event of a major war due to a carriers ability to be so flexibile. Finally the numerous operations in which a carrier has been required or a key component, rangs from Afghanistan, Iraq, Yugoslavia, Sierra Leone, Bosnia, Lebanon and more.

    This of course raises the inevitable issue that the RAF can do it, in many of these military situations they have proven less useful and reacted less quickly than carrier born elements. Libya is a case in point, it took a massive fleet of tankers to fly our inital Tornado strike elements to Libya. Once their they could loiter for a few moments and could attack with only a SINGLE missile each.
    Even now for us to strike at Libya we must use air to air refueling and spend a long time in transit.

    The Illustrious (still in service) would be a much cheaper and more effective option if Harrier was reinstated. It would provide quicker CAS (combat air support) than tornados flying from southern Italy, It would provide longer loiter times enabling it to support the rebels more effectively or enforce the UN resolution more capably, It would also be far cheaper as the harrier is cheaper to operate than the Tornado.

    Finally before concluding why we need the carriers I will disucss the issue of harmony.
    The RN and the FAA can deploy 60% of it's forces at any one time. It is also expected that it's personel be deployed for 60% of a year away. This is demonstrated by 660 days over 3 years deployment away from home. Furthermore this deployment is for 6-9 months. In the event of the Invicible class carriers or in future the Queen Elizabeth carriers this will include the FAA pilots who will work up and then deploy with the carrier.
    A way of providing a simple example is you need 3 squadrons to have 1 squadron operational and on duty at any single point of time for an indefinite period of time. With probably capability to surge to 2 with short notice and for some length of time.

    The RAF is able to spend 20% of it's time away... ie a maximum of 2-3 months before being recalled. It can deploy 20% of it's forces at any one time.
    In short it needs 5 squadrons to maintain and deploy 1 squadron.

    In conclusion,

    Libya has already proven how rubbish the decision to remove the harriers and the Ark Royal from service was. Further reading on this subject will reveal that it was not the choice of the Army or the RN to do this and only a private meeting with the prime minister in the last moments of the SDSR allowed this to happen.
    I will bet my lifes savings that before 2019 we will REQUIRE a carrier. With no carrier we will have to lend lease one with the cost that brings, hope the QE is far enough in build to push her into service, hope the Illustrious is still around or lose a lot of clout... none of these options is good.

    The QE class carriers are not a cost efficient job, this is not primarily the fauly of the RN but lies mainly with the MoD, the treasury and industry (Big and Expensive systems engineering lol). They are however required. China is looking to build carriers, India is looking to expand to 4, Russia is looking to build them again. France and the USA operates large carriers. Finally even Brazil, Spain, Australia and Italy will operate at least 2-3 light carriers in the future.

    A carrier is a flexible capable tool as proven since WW2, the Korean war, Suez crisis (a political not military failure), the Falklands, Iraq 1 and 2, Afghanistan, Bosnia, Lebonan, Siera Leone, Yugoslavia and various humanitarian disasters.
    Ignoring it is blind idiocy, the RAF have previous said they could cover all British territories.. Yet they couldn't due to no bases in the West Indies, None in the pacific ocean territories, no sizeable bases in the gibralter gap, none in the mid atlantic territories and no siezable bases in the South Atlantic (4 Typhoons doesn't compare with the capability to delpoy 36 F35C, 4 E2D Hawkeye AWACS and numerous ASW Merlin Helos).

    This has not changed, it will not change.

    Britain has 90% of it's trade in terms of tonnage travel via sea.
    70% of the monetary value of our total trade comes from sea.
    We have territories only reachable with sizeable force at reasonable cost by sea.

    People need to wake up, the whole neglect of our Royal Navy is annoying me. Unless people want to see another Falklands type scenario with the lose of 5-6 ship and thousands of lives we had better start realising there are nasty people out there. Deterency is cheaper than war. Peace never lasts and never will. The governments primary responsibility is the defence of the nation.

  • Comment number 36.

    It is costing Britain a fortune to fly and attack Libya. Now if we still had our aircraft carrier and sent it out there, it would be a quarter of the cost but no, we did not need the aircraft carrier anymore our goverment says but hey you happy to spend billions on another country who lets us land and take off to attack Libya!
    Just shows we do need our aircraft carrier!
    And what's the point is spending all this money: HMS Prince of Wales will not enter service. It will be built but not kitted out, and then kept as a reserve vessel.

  • Comment number 37.

    The problem is that we can't negotiate these contracts properly. We need a firm grip over these costs. If they supply a figure of 5 billion to build, then they need to be held to that figure.

  • Comment number 38.

    The alterations to the flightdeck , to accommodate conventional aircraft, were always on the cards. The VSTOL capabilities of the JSF is limited by its engine configuration. The VSTOL JSF employs a front lift fan, similar to the ill-fated YAK-38 -141, which is driven by the main engine via a very strong and complex clutch. It is this clutch which is the limiting design factor and has resulted in the JSF been given the nickname “too plump to jump”. Again, this demonstrates the elegance and practicality of the Harrier design – Sir Stanley Hooker will be revolving, at a very high rpm, in his grave.
    But the real question is - are these super carriers already like the Dreadnoughts . Will such super carriers be superseded by smaller ships that can launch pilotless drones and missiles?

  • Comment number 39.

    @8 Snarlygronkit. "The early years of WWII were a "Damn close run thing" due to earlier political neglect".
    I would suggest to you that it wasn't political neglect of our defence capability that made WW2 a close run thing, but Hitlers almost total annihilation of our airfields. Good job he (failed again to listen to Goering &) switched to civilian targets when he did.
    Given that we are more overcrowded than China (density) and such an economic powerhouse that we are each saddled with £1000s of debt, why would China want to invade us, effectively cancelling our indentured slavery?

  • Comment number 40.

    Whilst i understand the figures are huge, if we put them into context , we are not at the cost of the Olympics, or even 1 years bonus pool for a major bank.What concerns me is the length of time we will be without an aircraft carrier strike force.

    If we can go for so long without ,what makes the powers that be think we will require them at all in 10 years time ???

    When George Osborne can just pick up a phone and send Billions to other countries to bail them out at least this cost is keeping many British people in jobs, rather than propping up the failing banking system of some other country.

    If we need to save money lets do away with Trident, which IMO would never be used anyway.....

    The whole decision making process for major Government projects is flawed and needs totally overhauled indecision on the scale we see is costing us many times more than the projects should cost.

  • Comment number 41.

    8. At 08:55am 28th Apr 2011, snarlygronkit wrote:

    > you may wake up one morning and find the that your residence is no longer
    > yours, and that your children are being forcibly marched to the local
    > mosque - or indeed, speaking fluent mandarin.

    Re: language - I would be very pleased if either of my boys spoke fluent mandarin. I try talking to them in English, Welsh or German, but it does no good - they take no notice, whatever language I use.

    Re: religion - as a young child, I was often forcibly marched to the catholic church, by my mother. The Roman Church did me a power of good, especially the part where Jesus went into the temple and cast out the money-changers, calling it “a den of thieves”. I still bash bankers whenever I can.

    Re: aircraft carriers – we can't afford 'em, lad. There's no more money. Seb Coe and the greedy bankers took the lot.

  • Comment number 42.

    This is being made to sound like a negative due to the cost increase for modifying the carriers but the savings on buying F-35c's versus F-35B's (jumpjets) must surely outweigh that, even more so if we just buy perfectly good and 'cheap' F-18's. This should have been done as part of the Defence Spending Review, a total missed opportunity. Instead of keeping tornados, heay armour (tanks, etc) and frigates the priority should have been carriers and planes to fly off them. If they wanted to get really radical they could even have disbanded the RAF, uk air defence fighters and helicopters to the army and any foreign strike done by the navy (fixed wing carrier aircraft or cruise missiles).

  • Comment number 43.

    With an oil price of $125 bbl and rising the folly of not using nuclear power to run these carriers will soon be apparent when they spend most of their time alongside because we can't afford the fuel anymore.

    Of course the same argument will apply to their jets. Where will the fuel come from for those? The Americans are developing bio-kerosene - we're not.

  • Comment number 44.

    Erm... It's funny how certain a certain highly-comparable island nation manages spending about 1% of GDP on military expenditure, yet somehow there are always (interested?) parties lining up to tell us that we need to carry on spending a proportion _three times_ as much or everything will fall apart.

    Need I remind anyone that there is a massive _opportunity cost_ here? We could be spending this money on public works that would have a far greater knock-on effect in terms of economic growth and jobs. My suggestion - cut military expenditure by at least 50% and spend the money on a fiber-optic network.

  • Comment number 45.

    At 11:21am 28th Apr 2011, Will wrote:
    The problem is that we can't negotiate these contracts properly. We need a firm grip over these costs. If they supply a figure of 5 billion to build, then they need to be held to that figure.

    But if you change the spec half way through then the variation to the contract is priced, and you can hardly decide to get someone else to finish a half completed 60,000tonne carrier.
    Contractural overspend is almost always about not knowing what you really wanted in the first place and a lack of clarity in pre contractural planning

  • Comment number 46.

    Points to stupidity from the top to the bottom.
    First, we had 3 serviceable carriers with capable and proven aircraft, to scrap them ahead of a replacement has resulted in an undeniable and unacceptable lack of air defence cover for the fleet, for the Falklands and other overseas territories.
    Second the new carriers should have been designed from the off to carry any of the likely planes and not have to be 'redesigned'.
    One serviceable aircraft carrier == 1 torpedo, 1 air attack or 1 breakdown and we are unable to provide any air cover. 1 Carrier also means we are only able to provide cover for 1 convoy or in 1 theatre - heaven help us if a serious war were to develop as it did twice in the last century.
    The 'costs' we are saving are merely transferred from the MOD budget to the DSS as the ex sailors, ex marines, ex pilots, ex mechanics, ex captains become unemployed.

  • Comment number 47.

    How come money is no problem for building weapons of mass destruction? When it comes to finding money for the Health Services or for Education we are told the country is broke.

  • Comment number 48.

    As an engineer I am increasingly bemused at the way 'Taxpayers' get in a tizzy over 'unexpected' cost rises in major defence projects when the customer (in this case the MoD) has decided to make significant design requirements changes mid project.

    Of course the fitment of catapults and traps is going to cost more.

    It's rather like ordering a hand built sports car, then demanding that gull wing doors be fitted at some point after the contractors have finished designing and have started building.

    Is that the contractors fault? No it's down to a bad original customer specification. Aircraft carriers are expensive to begin with (look at their design life and operating environment to begin to understand why). Consequently, making significant changes to the design is equally expensive.

    In short - Be careful what you ask for, as it's going to cost you (a lot) if you change your mind later!

  • Comment number 49.

    Agree with post 01 - 'Colin'.

    Furthermore, in my view, as the timeline between procurement and delivery is so long with the MoD - it's fairly clear where all the incompetent mistakes were started since 1997? How many useless Defence Ministers were there during the last administration? Plus the battles between Blair and Brown - disgraceful.

    We should just have gone to Japan and Germany for quotes and efficiency.

    As for the rise in costs from the current companies - the Government should refuse the price increase and renegotiate on behalf of the British tax-payer. Don't get done MOD - get DOM!!!!

  • Comment number 50.

    Basically all MOD procurement has always been completely incompetent. They could not buy a burger in McDonalds, and should not be trusted too !

    The RN is in a complete mess in terms of their current 'fleet' - the level of maintanenance and readiness has reached a stage where crew now regard them as too dangerous to use in a hostile environment.

    If the MOD was made fully independent of government they would not be made to sign contracts with penalties and restrictions no commercial organisation would agree to. The number under the last government which went north of the border for nothing other than political reasons was a disgrace.

    Spleen almost vented.

  • Comment number 51.

    Is anyone surprised?????

    Its beyond me why anyone, not least the Government, should be surprised when projects like this run massively over budget.

    Contractors bid in order to win contracts, so a '£1b' winning contract was probably never a '£1b' project in the first place...
    Add in the fact that once started, its almost impossible or extremely punitive to stop the contract.
    The contractors are right to do this - there's a huge risk premium attached to having to live with short term political views and 5 year spending reviews when trying to deliver long term projects.... note the cast iron guarantee the UK Govt gave to the Eurofighter consortium to buy 250+ aircraft... only to renege and commit to a fraction of the original number subsequently. That decision destroys any scale economies and costs rocket as a result - nothing more than high-school economics will tell you that!!

    Add in that most of these projects are moving targets... so how can contractors specify and deliver to a fixed budget when the specification of the project is constantly being amended like the aircraft carrier one.

    This isn't a problem of rogueish contractors fleecing the Government and its agencies, although they probably do make a healthy profit and keep many many people employed, the root of the problem is the complete inability of the Government, ministers and civil servants to define a specification and stick to it.

    While they might point to changing defense needs (or other fluid situations), why not just admit and accept that these projects are in effect on going and open ended in time and budget as they can be nothing other than that???

    Closure of the Scottish air bases is a good example. At first, we don't need them... it all kicks off in Libya within 12 months and suddenly we have to re-evaluate the need for them.

    Are you really telling me that a) this was totally unforseen, and b) a small skirmish in north africa is enough to conclude that in fact we do need bases up here???

    Mothball by all means, but once they're closed, they're closed. Short of WW3, there's no going back. You either need them for all forseeable defense needs or you don't.

  • Comment number 52.

    I'm slightly bemused by all this - as I see it, the issue isn't whether we should or should not have these carriers/airplanes/strike capability but why there is such a huge cost associated with modifying them.

    I'd be especially interested to see just how the 'cost' breaks down - raw materials (next to nothing), labour costs (probably a small part), architect & consultancy fees (ridiculous), shareholders profit margins (??). Lets put this into perspective, the MoD doesn't have a monopoly on stupidly expensive overruns - remember Wembly Stadium, stupid costs, stupid litigation as a result.

    It's time we taxpayers stopped accepting second best from big Government schemes and started holding people to account - of course this will never happen with the British establishment's resistance to transparency.

  • Comment number 53.

    An agreed contract price is just that and documents would have been agreed and signed between the MOD and the contractor/s. If a contractor to the MOD decide to renege - that's the contractors problem and must be enforced to meet their contract obligations.

  • Comment number 54.

    Doh!.............If it's not BANKERS, POLITICIANS, ROYALS etc etc there's always someone else that taps good ole UK tax pounds...Listen we have not manufactured anything of this nature for a long-time and probably never will again, for sure there is very little ROI.....the latter ROI has blighted this country for decades aka CONCORD, HOVERCRAFT, HARRIERS etc etc. We just end up giving away our technological advances to the ROW......

  • Comment number 55.

    I just love the peacenik comments in this thread. In particular, the comment about UK defence spending being higher than Europe, and the suggestion that we should follow suit. This is particularly ignorant and numb-skulled.

    The reason why the continental Europeans can afford social programs is because they have been relying on the US for defence for 70 years (and no doubt sneering at them at the same time).

    One day the US will remove that convenient comfort blanket... and let's see how the ever so progressive continental Europeans defend their interests then.

    We need both carriers, fully equipped with catobar capability.

  • Comment number 56.

    Calm down dear! Hardware costs so get used to it. Or is this another of your Browne/Glencore moments?

  • Comment number 57.

    I fully agree with Colin #!, but in saying that what else has Brown and Darling left behind as their legacy?? Couldn't cancel the carriers because the idiots in Labour signed a contract that tied them up more than Houdini, Must help bail out Portugal, I dread to think what else Labour has left us. No wonder Balls & Co have jumped on to the Camerons "calm down dear" retort. One way way of deflecting people away from realising how incompetent and inept they really were.

  • Comment number 58.

    Please dig deeper on this Robert. It sounds like we are chucking good money after bad. Surely the extra billions spend planned takes these white elephants above the threshold where it would be cheaper to cancel now? Inevitably the money that is spent on them will be lost in other areas such as education and health or even useful conventional forces. I am quite pro-defence but I honestly don't see these being useful. RE No 4's comment that there are "no no go areas" for carriers I understand that even now China has ballistic missiles that would take these out within 1000 miles range, how many countries wiull have these by 2020 when the carriers enter service? How many more in 2030 and 2040, their prime useful years. Aircraft carriers were great in 1940 but even in the 80s and 90s there were doubts about how well a US style carrier battle group would hold up against a suitably equipped land based opponent.

  • Comment number 59.

    Aircraft carriers are attack weapons so tell me again why we need them. The current aggression in Libya and Afghanistan is no justification for the need to rapidly deploy overseas military might and most of the Commonwealth is quite capable of defending itself or out of the scope of carriers.

  • Comment number 60.

    It's "bash BAE" and "bash the MoD" week again, I see.

    The procurement process for major platforms like these new carriers is hugely complex.

    Firstly the technology is always developing - so there is never a "right time" to buy anything - and to ignore significant developments means the equipment will need replacing sooner as our enemies get the superior technology equipment, so reducing its lifetime. Take electric propulsion in warships, for example. Using High voltage generators and motors, an electric ship can be much more easily repaired and requires less heavy maintenance - the RN started making electric surface ships with the T45, which is a much leaner, faster more survivable vessel than those it replaced, but more expensive to build.

    Secondly there is the current perception of the role the equipment is to fulfil. when this process started the mission role was one thing - now it's completely changed, so a totally different type of aircraft is being proposed. Is this BAE's fault? Is it even the MoD's fault? At the time we wanted VTOL just as Harrier provided, but a new supersonic air supremacy plus bombing/close air support aircraft. The Strategic Defence Review was a rushed, politically driven process that imposed major changes in a very short time frame - it is inevitable that this would cause a massive rise in the cost of the project, regardless what the MoD or BAE did or did not do.

    Thirdly there's the endless rounds of spending reviews and postponing spending because the Treasury demands the MoD as a major spending department aligns itself to the finance agenda, rather than the optimal project plan - result extra cost.

    Then we have to think about injecting some competition into the process - although we've allowed BAE to come to dominate the market through our purchasing decisions over the years - this is in danger of becoming a farce because in reality the platforms we procure are so specialist that there is often only BAE which could produce them at an acceptable price using UK workers & yards. you could say that by imposing Thales etc on BAE to build the carriers we've hugely increased the project management and complexity of the project, thinking that this provides some competition for BAE - but it well may have ended up costing us more.

    All this BAE/MoD bashing is simplistic - politicians are largely to blame for the situation over the aircraft carriers - indeed the Nimrod disaster was started down its road of no return by politicians wanting to create jobs in their constituencies rather than buy in US aircraft, based on the antique airliner which is the forefather of the Nimrod.

    Take the Chinook modification mess - politicians insisted on imposing a multi-role requirement on the procurement ostensibly to save money - this led to the MoD going down yet another dead end of modifying the aircraft to the point where the manufacturers washed their hands of them and they were unflyable.

    If we want to do something about the defence procurement problem we should stop all this endless sniping at the MoD and BAE as easy targets and turn at least a substantial part of our fire on Westminster, whilst accepting that buying something that our servicemen and womens' lives depend on is totally different from most aspects of public procurement and that the technology arms race is a fact of life, so goalposts will have to be moved to ensure the kit we do deploy on operations gives our people what they need to survive and defeat our enemies.

    Defence procurement bashing smacks of cheap journalism to me - giving headline numbers and taking another poke in the general direction of the MoD and BAE provides a handy smokescreen for those who are substantially responsible for the problems to hide behind - the politicians.

  • Comment number 61.

    For all the comments on here lambasting the Defence companies, you need to bear in mind a few things:
    1) The costs are reflective of MoD instigated Requirement changes, that is to say they have amended the current contract, thereby nullifying original costs
    2) All costs are subject to Commercial audit (commonly known in Defence parlance as CAAS review)
    3) Not briefed yet, but a Requirements change will almost undoubtedly lead to a delay in delivery... usually brought about due to the additional requirements equalling 'n' number of man-hours.
    If the MoD had worked out all of their requirements beforehand, the Government would not be in this position. It is not the contractors' fault.

  • Comment number 62.

    BAE and their partners would have to invest heavily in tooling and recruit a large number of people to do the job of designing and building these ships.

    With the history of project cancellations over the last 40 years is it any wonder they protected their investment with a "you aren't going to back out this time are you ?" clause in the contract. They'd have been mad not to - because without it they'd be laying off people right now, at their own expense, and with no assistance from the government. It's not as if they could have finished the ships off and then sell them abroad. No, they'd have a pile of scrap and a big bill.

  • Comment number 63.

    #53 - in this case it's the customer who has changed the contract.

    The 2 carriers were to be both the same design, and both to take the STOVL version of the JSF.

    Now the customer wants one carrier built with catapults to be able to take the conventional naval version of the JSF. This is a change of contract, requires a redesign, a change in deck layout and equipment and also reduces the commonality of fitting out the ships. And that will cost more.

  • Comment number 64.

    I remember when they first conceived the aircraft carriers, they said they had implemented the potential use of cats and had left sufficient space in their design to allow the fitting of electromagnetic catapults. All of a sudden the design change costs >£1billion. This screams corruption to me. Why would it cost so much to modify a design of somethingt that hasn't been built yet! They may not be getting as much in expenses these days, but they are not short on recieveing extra cash either!!

  • Comment number 65.

    @51

    I agree, these sort of long term procurements are not very compatible with governments that change party/their mind very five or so years, nor the fluidity of global necessity and advances in technology.

    There could be improvements in efficiency and perhaps more liability, but at the end of the day, a viable alternative that is better is by no means easier to come to.

  • Comment number 66.

    Robert P, do you think we need aircraft carriers?

  • Comment number 67.

    44. At 11:33am 28th Apr 2011, Jamie Potter wrote:

    "Need I remind anyone that there is a massive _opportunity cost_ here?..."

    There is no opportunity cost here unless you are happy with being part of somebody else's empire. This country must be able to defend itself. This capability can only come from the continuous high level of spend on upgrading the defence systems.

    History over the millennia is littered with countries that neglected that simple premise and subsequently fell prey to the more canny aggressors. Classic recent example is Tibet...

    Even Switzerland spend places them in the Top 25 per capita expenditure - so they don't take this issue lightly.

    If you think this time it is different - think again. Any potential attackers are kept at bay by our (Western) technological superiority and the nuclear deterrent. Being part of NATO clearly helps but how long can the Americans maintain their omnipresence in the face of the severe economical pressures back at home?

  • Comment number 68.

    We need two aircraft carriers why? If we didn't build these weapons of war and attack innocent people and exploit their land for their mineral wealth we wouldn't need aircraft carriers to defend us agaisnt the might of say...the Afghan Navy. Imagine for one moment that Iran parked an aircraft carrier in the English Channel which is just as close a we park ours to Irans coast, would you be happy about it? so why should they be forced to suck it up.

    2 billion pounds is a lot of money and could be well spent on other more important things, it would almost be enough to pay for another royal wedding.

  • Comment number 69.

    All this moaning over a couple of billion pounds, "money that could have been spent on benefits & public sector".
    With single mothers alone costing 3 time more than it does to run the Royal Navy, it good to see that were getting a useful bit of kit for all the taxes that we pay instead of it being flushed away on benefits, waste of time surestart and illegals etc.
    Perhaps money has been wasted, but that happens all the time.
    Pulling out of the waste of money EU, would give us plenty to keep it well stabled with the best aircraft, pilots and training and the funding to build a full sized Nimitz class as well.
    We're nothing without a well funded military so keep it coming.

  • Comment number 70.

    The question is not whether we should continue to build the carriers, but whether we should be procuring the F-35s. First up, the Libyan adventure is verification for the need of carriers, not the opposite as Peston suggests. When the no-fly zone was implemented, for the first week or more the vast majority of sorties were flown by US jets, operating from aircraft carriers in the Mediterreanean with the US 6th Fleet. British jets, meanwhile (the paultry 10 or so Tornados) were flying sorties from UK bases, at considerable expense and stretching the RAF's tenuous logistical network while ground crew and equipment could be routed to Italian bases to host our jets. This arrangement was both inefficient, and costly in terms of airframe hours on the aircraft doing the missions. Furthermore, when the US looked to step down from leading the action, Italy threatened not to allow us to use their bases if NATO did not take command, which would have effectively prevented British aircraft from enforcing the no-fly zone. This demonstrates the folly of relying on fixed air bases in other countries and overfly rights as a substitute for a carrier force. This concept, known as the "Island Strategy", was coined in the early 70s and was proved completely wrong by Falklands War. The Sheffield, Coventry, the Galahad and the Tristram would not have been sunk if the original HMS Queen Elisabeth II had been built as planned, with a full complement of air defence aircraft being directed, crucially, to intercept the attacking Argentine bombers by an AEW aircraft.
    Where money can be saved on the current carrier programme, is firstly by cancelling the order for the F-35s, which will cost at least £10bn in its own right. Instead, we should purchase an aircraft capable of STOBAR operations, i.e. the Saab Gripen NG, or, if Boeing's claims to the SuperHornet's STOBAR potential at Farnborough last year are to be believed, the F/A-18-E/F. Either aircraft would cost £30-40m per plane, tops, and a STOBAR conversion of the two carriers from their original STOVL configuration would be cheaper than switching to CATOBAR ops. This is especially true as they don't know whether to install the as-yet untested electromagnetic catapults the USN are working on (which may run into development problems, leading to more delays and cost overruns), or the tried and tested steam catapult gear. However, as both carriers are neither steam nor nuclear powered, this would involve building a large steam bowler and installing it somewhere in the ship to power the catapults. Either way, in the case of the QE II, this would be a lot of work, as they've already installed the ramp in the bow section. A STOBAR lay-out, however, would merely require the addition of arrestor hooks and the Optical Landing System. This would be a minor alteration as it doesn't require ripping out the bows and starting the whole flight deck from scratch, saving money and ensuring both aircraft carriers could be in service ahead of the revised schedule. Once the Americans have worked out how to make electromagnetic catapults work, we can fit them on the carriers when the ships have a scheduled major refit, which was stated as a requirement in the original MOD application to tender document in the first place.

  • Comment number 71.

    One serviceable aircraft carrier == 1 torpedo, 1 air attack or 1 breakdown and we are unable to provide any air cover.

    It’s actually worse than this, what happens when this thing goes in for refit you’ll be with out it for months. That’s why we had more than 1 invincible class and why we have more than just one trident sub, as one of them is always in at Devonport being refitted, etc

  • Comment number 72.

    "Kerchinga" It is so obvious these companies are milking the government/tax payers. I wonder what the cost would be from a Foreign constructor.

    The Government needs to stop supporting BAE espeically with the poor record on delivering on time equipment that works.....

  • Comment number 73.

    High level civil servants paid from the public purse prepare the feasibility studies and peruse the contracts for our often ignoble ministers but escape with complete anonymity.

    They are collectively known as 'The Treasury'. 'the MoD', 'a spokesman'. Who are these people and why are they afraid to be named?

    What do the word 'public service' amount to meaning when we are served huge bills from nameless people who frankly often appear to be using Mr Peston to do their dirty work for them.



  • Comment number 74.

    The War Office, responsible for the Army, was originally the Secretary at War’s office. The first holder of the post was killed in battle - at sea - against the Dutch in 1666. It was not at first a big spending Department; office expenses for six months of 1673 amounted to £14 9s 0d. It became however of increasing importance in the political control of the Army, although it was not the only Government Department involved - in 1815 there were fifteen.

    This was not an efficient system, and finally in 1854 the War Office was set up to take over all political and financial control of the Army. Even that was not a complete success. Florence Nightingale, who was a friend of the Secretary of State and very interested in the cause of military reform after her experiences during the Crimean War, wrote to him in 1859, describing the War Office as "a very slow office, an enormously expensive office, a not very efficient office". After many years of gradual change the War Office was finally reformed in 1904 on the lines of the Board of Admiralty, with the Secretary of State chairing the Army Council, and a new office for it was built in Whitehall.

    Is this when the rot set in

  • Comment number 75.

    It never ceases to amaze me how budgets are managed in the MOD and the gov't in general. I can accept that with such an enormous project for a relatively unique product there are bound to be areas of uncertainty and there will be cost implications. However how can the MOD make a decision to build these based on need and then within a short term consider cancelling them. They are either needed or not. Vast sums of money are badly managed by the MOD and this simply has to stop. In 1999 the project cost was £2bn, its now going to be £7bn and we all know it will end up as £10bn. Do we need carriers, yes we do obviously. Can we afford them, yes we can and we can afford all the armed forces requirements if we manage the money properly and stop wasting so much. Nimrod for example, breaking up aircraft we have just built for £5bn, the farce of the Chinnook helicopters bought without the necessary software and therefore not airworthy (what dipstick ever thought this was a good idea?) and now converted back to an earlier version at another reported £1bn. Go back to the 60s. We spent a vast sum on the TRS2 aircraft, then labour cancelled it and decided to buy the USA F111....and then cancelled that too and paid a hefty penalty.....for which we bought not a single nut or bolt. Add up all the waste over the years and that money could have well equipped our forces!

  • Comment number 76.

    I recommend, to get a further insight into what's coming:

    'Airborne killer robot destroys Libyan anti-aircraft missile: Another nail in the coffin of the combat jet By Lewis Page'
    http://www.theregister.co.uk/2011/04/26/predator_blows_away_gecko/

    If we do't need manned jets we don't need aircraft carriers; obsolescent by the time they come into service, perhaps?

  • Comment number 77.

    Some points.
    Delay in ordering having decided requirement. Political and not insignificant cost increase incurred.
    Delay In service date. Political and not insignificant cost increase incurred.
    Decision as to what capability is required. Political and not insignificant cost increase incurred.

    Many of the indecisions are more costly to the country than the MOD bungling. Yet the focus seems to be steered away from the politicians.
    Preston, your slant in this and previous "blogs" on this topic have been very biase I feel. Libya is not getting good support from GR4 Tornado. Carrier srike would be more responsive, argueably cheaper, but definitely more flexible all performed with out need for reluctant allies.
    Please stick to other topics and leave this one alone, you do not do it with any expertise.

  • Comment number 78.

    This is perhaps the least surprising new I have ever heard. When was the last time that a Government project, regardless of the sponsoring department, has come in on time and/or on budget.

    As a former member of HM Forces I have seen the financial incompetence at first hand - you see big ticket items (Aircraft Carriers, Apache helicopters, Eurofighter Typhoon, Nimrod, Astute Class submarines, Type 45, the list goes on) hemorraging money by the billion from every pore and yet the front line are told that they can't send people on an essential course as the budget for the train ticket to get them to the course just isn't there or that this box of pencils rather than that box of pencils should be bought because this box of pencils is 5p cheaper from the suppliers.

    And I thought that these departments had clever Civil Servants working for them. And lawyers. How do they end up signing a contract that says that they'll owe more money by cancelling than by building?

    The other thing is that as far as the MOD, and other Government Departments, are concerned, the cheapest cost option automatically equals best value for money regardless of it's quality. I have seen on many occasions items replaced unnecessarily, at additional cost, several times per year. If the originally purchased item had been a better quality, but slightly more expensive, product in the first place (say waterproof rather than water resistant, but costing half as much again) it would need replacing less often and, overall cost less.

    And another thing. The dodgy "in year" accounting practices that are employed by Government Departments where, for example, if you have a £2000pa road safety budget for a military establishment, but have some or all unspent at the end of the financial year, budget controllers cannot move the money to an area requiring investment (say IT improvements or upgrades) and then they lose the money twice - once for the current year, and again for the next year (probably with the view that if it wasn't needed this year, it can't possibly be needed next year either). So the money is wasted on repaint already white lines in the car parks and repainting the already yellow "double yellow" lines in order that the money is seen to be used (i.e. wasted) in order to strengthen the case for having the same or an increased budget for next year.

    If the MOD were in business, it would be out of business in the blink of an eye primarily because it's procurement processes are a disgrace

  • Comment number 79.

    60**

    Then whole procurement system is fundamentally flawed . Why should Gordon Brown determine the carriers are built virtually in his own back yard !!

    The MOD is a bunch of spineless pen pushers who go with the flow instead of standing up and telling the politicians the truth and implications of changes and the dangers of "lock in " contracts.

    They should all be sacked and the whole system rebuilt with a C Exc who stands up and delivers the best procurement solutions based on a strategic review . If the strategic review is crap , then the MOD can at least say they have done its job...

  • Comment number 80.

    Scrapping the Harriers was such a big mistake , They are a very good weapons platform and perfect close air support.
    The Typhoons are not yet cleared for ground attack and the only version that will be is the Tranch 1 version , which by the way is not the version the RAF will finish with. It would have made more sense to retire the old Tornado Fleet and upgrade the Harrier, as for the new carriers why not buy off the shelf F18s

  • Comment number 81.

    79.

    You're right but its not just MOD procurement that suffers from this. Take the MMO (Marine Management Organisation) Plymouth was the front runner to host this because it is a leading centre in marine research in the UK, even KPMG agreed. But where did it land up, Newcastle. Which is nothing to do with the fact that Labour MP Nick Brown was regional minister for the NE at the time.

    Now they have a major recruitment problem. And where is their chief scientific officer based, oh that’ll be in a lab in Plymouth then so she’s got to travel all the way to Newcastle regularly.

  • Comment number 82.

    I shall refrain from saying "we told you so" upps!
    It was a safe bet, cost of living gone up 4 -5% so where has a billion suddenly come from.
    The one we just scrapped at least worked. This one will be worn out before they can afford any planes for it, unless we buy a few cessnas or something.
    It could only happen here. Perhaps we should privatise and contract out the UK government to Germany or somewhere too....

  • Comment number 83.

    Surely the present twits in power should have an inkling that changing the specifications of the aircraft carriers to make them compatible with different aircraft than those originally envisaged would impact on cost.

    I mean if I went to the garage looking for a car and got a quote , but then asked for much better performance and specifications I am sure I would be charged more than the original quote!!!!

  • Comment number 84.

    I don't like the way Robert Peston, the business editor, is asking questions about the continued need for carrier battle groups. Surely this is the realm of Caroline Wyatt, the Defence Correspondent, or Mark Urban, who is a widely respected defence commentator with many books on the subject to his name, and who tends to sound like (and looks like a thin) Mark Corrigan.
    Peston - by all means discuss the increases of cost of the project, but leave the questioning of the worthiness of the project itself to the experts in that field. Your flippant tone from the last time you discussed the carrier project shows your lack of knowledge on defence issues.
    If you want to show up the horrendous waste of taxpayers' money through poor procurements strategies at the MoD, rather than continuing to attack the carrier project's cost overruns (which have not been due to questions of MoD procurement practices, or errors by the contractors carrying out the work, but by continuing Labour Government equivocation over commissioning the work, and then pausing work on the project to cover costs for urgent operational equipment, and now, finally, the change of Govt. and the Tory led Govt.'s decision to switch to the F-35C variant and the need for CATOBAR ops), I would suggest you focus instead on the projects that really were the result of MoD/Defence contractors (principally the firm that's the darling of everyone's pension portfolio - BAe Systems), namely: the Nimrod MRA4 fiasco;
    the Type 45 Daring class disaster;
    the BOWMAN balls-up (although I guess that one's not a sexy enough a topic for you);
    the continuing JSF problems (I've run out of alliterative puns);
    the long and torturously expensive Eurofighter ordeal (which you have implicitly endorsed in the above article by suggesting the current arrangements of operating the Typhoon from Italy as preferable, or at least, an adequate substitute for a carrier battle group performing the task);
    the A400M mess which inexplicably was spared the chop at the defence review;
    the Air Tanker public-private initiative that sees the RAF lease the aircraft from a private consortium for a horrendous rate;
    or, the Chinook fiasco, where we laughed in Boeing's faces when they said we'd struggle to fit our own avionics in their choppers, and promptly hid the defunct airframes in a hangar for 10 years when the boys from Seattle (who have some form when it comes to building aircraft) were proved right and the MoD (who last year managed to struggle to organise the departmental Christmas party in the local brewery) were proved, yet again, to be thick as two planks.

  • Comment number 85.

    Both customer and supplier? Not to difficult to see who gets screwed after a nice lunch.

  • Comment number 86.

    Re post 83, the present twits in power are the one's who decided the UK did not require any sea-borne air cover for at least a decade. PR Dave's comment about the costing of scrapping the new carriers was more the cost of building them, indicates he and his coalition chums must have considered the UK would never need sea-borne air cover again.
    For a nation which conducts 95% of it's imports and exports by sea, a bizarre outlook.
    They are also looking at scrapping the Army's heavy weapons and reducing the RAF's capabilities too. Makes sense ,we'll have no way of providing supporting actions overseas ,so there's no need to have forces capable of combined operations.
    Dave must think the USA will always be on hand to help out. The Tories have been behaving as the UK branch of the Republican Party since the '80s so it's no surprise if that mindset exists inside the Tory Party. However they should consider that the US(as with most other countries) only take notice, when it's own national interests are at stake and they don't always coincide with ours.

  • Comment number 87.

    Goodness me these carriers cost more than I thought. May I suggest we leave it in port, we wouldn't want to risk it being sunk.

  • Comment number 88.

    Yewlodge should read the article before making wild and disparaging comments. It is the Government and not the MOD who made the decisions that have increased the cost. It is all too easy to take a pop at the MOD and other Civil Service departments when the fault lies with our elected Lords and masters. Regrettably they are all too willing to pass the buck and the blame when these issues become public.Although it is not so in this case contractors often cannot provide what they have contracted for at the price they won the contract. It is Government policy to maintain an effective defence manufacturing industry in this country therefore companies are allowed to get away with quoting low to win contracts and then escalating the price at the slightest pretext later.

  • Comment number 89.


    87. At 15:02pm 28th Apr 2011, Lindsay_from_Hendon wrote:

    'Goodness me these carriers cost more than I thought. May I suggest we leave it in port, we wouldn't want to risk it being sunk.'

    -------------------------

    What, by one of these do you mean...

    GAME CHANGER

    Dong Feng 21D
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Dong_Feng_21D#DF-21D_.28CSS-5_Mod-4.29_Anti-ship_ballistic_missile

    Chinese missile shifts power in Pacific
    http://www.ft.com/cms/s/0/3e69c85a-1264-11e0-b4c8-00144feabdc0.html#axzz1KpRNuPOM


    Everytime the West makes a new aircraft carrier, the Chinese build a new Dong Feng missile.

  • Comment number 90.

    @ 55. At 12:22pm 28th Apr 2011, LandyStang wrote:
    > The reason why the continental Europeans can afford social programs is because they
    > have been relying on the US for defence for 70 years (and no doubt sneering at
    > them at the same time).

    The last time Germany had higher arms spending than us, my dad had to join the Desert Rats and help kick Rommel out of Africa! I think we'd all prefer Europe to stay as it is, thank you very much.

    If there's a problem with money, don't bother me with it - ask the bankers; they have plenty.

  • Comment number 91.

    at least it is £2billion going to british ship yards

  • Comment number 92.

    Cancel them!
    When are we going to realize that under current austerity programs the defence budget should be cut. We need money for living (e.g. social programs), not for killing.
    The total cost of these two aircraft carriers will not even be known until the end of 2012, when a review of the specifications is completed. Costs always go up, never down. The redesign of the carriers will enable them to carry the carrier-variant Lockheed Martin Corp. (LMT) F-35 Joint Strike Fighter aircraft. This cost is projected to climb to as much as 7 billion pounds from 5.2 billion pounds. Personally, I believe this 7B figure is conservative.
    The planes on these carriers will be able to carry a greater payload. For what -
    on going war in Afghanistan, maybe Pakistan, maybe Iran; unseating legitimate rulers of countries unpopular with western leaders, detriment...I mean what viable excuse can the UK Government come up with to put this additional tax burden on the taxpayer?
    Perhaps instead (or in conjunction with) the AV plebiscite, we ought to include a question about DOD spending, as in "Do you agree that the DoD budget should be cut?" and/or "Do you support the construction of these aircraft carriers?"

  • Comment number 93.

    These carriers are being built for one reason and one reason only

    To guarantee Scottish jobs, the ridiculous everly hasty and binding contracts signed by HMG of the Brown variety tell you that quite plainly

  • Comment number 94.

    I agree with Axel Ramone. Everyone is slagging off BAE etc, however a recent report highlights the benefits of BAE to the UK people and economy. Summarised below
    A new report 'The Economic Contribution of BAE Systems to the UK in 2009' produced by independent economic research companies Oxford Economics and GeoEconomics outlines the value of BAE Systems and its 9,000 suppliers to the UK's economy. The report found that

    * Including its own staff and through its supply chain and induced employment, BAE Systems supported 125,000 UK jobs
    * BAE Systems made a contribution to the UK's GDP of £3.3 billion and delivered £4.9 billion of goods and services in net exports
    * We invested £4.1 billion with UK suppliers
    * BAE Systems is the largest manufacturing-based employer
    * We are the largest single private sector employer of professional engineers with 18,000
    * Our people were 85 per cent more productive than the national average
    * We invested £56 million in skills and education programmes and our staff took 97,000 days of training

    I am sure everyone on this board would soon be complaining, if this British company went under, with comments such as "why didnt the government do something to save it". We need to relise that the defence industry is a huge part of our manufacturing base and if we are not careful it will go the same way as other once great british manufacturing successes!!

  • Comment number 95.

    1. A maritime trading nation like ours (95% trade by sea; over 33% of our current energy needs imported by sea - and increasing) needs a navy so that our trade routes are protected. The preservation of good order at sea is an imperative, so playing our part in policing the seas is important (terrorism, piracy, drug trafficking, fishery protection, offshore protection and so on). Much of the navy's work goes on every day of the year, in peace or war, for different government departments - mundane some of it, often unsung, but vital. (See "First Sea Lord's Flag Hoist" online).
    2. The UK has 14 Overseas Territories - their defence is our responsibility. The Army and RAF can play a small part in this, but the work falls mostly to the Royal Navy and Royal Marines. The Royal Navy's ships also play their part in humanitarian assistance worldwide - aid to Haiti after the earthquake, hurricane relief in the Caribbean, disaster relief in Bangladesh and so on.
    3. In short, our island trading nation must protect its people, homeland, territories and trade routes. 70% of the earth's surface is sea and perhaps a half of the world's population lives within 100km (60 miles) of the sea. The sea thus provides enormous access, much from international waters, and naval aircraft from aircraft carriers, and smaller ships, add enormously to the flexibility that warships offer.
    4. If you question the need for aircraft carriers, first, look at where they have been involved in the past (WW2, Korean War, Suez crisis, Malaysian conflict, (Vietnam War), Falklands War, early stages of the invasion of Iraq, Libya (four nations' carriers, but HMS Ark Royal paid off and HMS Illustrious in refit)). Second, ask why it is that more countries are now building aircraft carriers than in the past. China is new to the carrier club, and India and France also have carriers under construction; Russia, Brazil, Thailand, Italy, Spain, France all have carriers as does the USA of course. What is it that they see that some Britons seem not to see? (See "List of aircraft carriers by country" + "Why the carriers?" - both easily found in an online search).
    5. Carriers are expensive - yes. Two is the minimum needed to ensure that one is in service. A bigger deck allows for greater flexibility of aircraft operations; the steel to build a larger vessel is not a significant cost.
    6. Big changes to the specification (deck launching and recovery systems) will cost more. %2

  • Comment number 96.

    You may take some consolation in knowing that Canada's Stephen Harper is in a campaign to persuade Canadians of the merits of the Lockheed-Martin F-35A Joint Strike Fighter.
    Mr. Harper has told we Canadians that the 65 F-35As he negotiated for at a cost of just $75M Canadian each is a “good deal” for Canada. But there are problems with that price-tag. The estimate is nowhere to be found in official US Government reports on the aircraft. In addition, the US Government Accountability Office (GAO) “has warned about serious ongoing problems with the aircraft and rising costs,” and estimates “that the F-35 model that Canada is buying will cost between $110 to $115M/ plane.
    Meanwhile, US Vice Admiral David Venlet, who heads the F-35 Joint Program Office, testified to a US Congressional Committee that his confident “procurement cost estimate” for the F-35A, the conventional take-off and landing model that Stephen Harper wants, is “$127M.
    Winslow Wheeler, former defence procurement analyst with the GAO cautions that the F-35As will probably cost Canada @ $148M each. Liberal leader Michael Ignatieff has proposed that the price per unit will amount to some $156M US when the maintenance contract is included.
    According to the Parliamentary Budget Officer, however, the DND estimates are misleading: the F-35 program’s full cost to Canada will be more like $450M for each plane.
    General Manson’s notion of rebutting Winslow Wheeler’s critique of the F-35 deal is to denounce it as “a low-credibility rant by an American visitor from a left-wing Washington organization renowned for its anti-defence posture.” Though I like this statement, I've really included it to caution the UK re hidden costs, costs not yet included, etc.
    Stephen Harper appears to have finessed the engine question by quoting a price for the F-35A that includes neither the program’s rapidly escalating development costs over the past several years nor—more basically—THE COST OF SUPPLYING THE AIRCRAFT WITH ENGINES!

  • Comment number 97.

    Interesting to see all the passions this topic raises from all sides. But reconsider some arguments:
    1) as all nations rely on maritime transport, if carriers were essential protection for sea lanes wouldn't the seas be clogged with carriers from all sorts of nations?
    2) if Britain really wanted to change the situation on the ground in Libya, put in 500-1000 troops with light/medium weaponry and air support based locally, and you'd chase the opposition back halfway across the country - an aircraft carrier is not the answer
    3) as politicians like to get entangled in grand missions with questionable strategic significance (Iraq, Afghanistan), maybe putting more modest military capabilities at their disposal might be a sensible thing...

  • Comment number 98.

    1. A maritime trading nation like ours (95% trade by sea; over 33% of our current energy needs imported by sea - and increasing) needs a navy so that our trade routes are protected. The preservation of good order at sea is an imperative, so playing our part in policing the seas is important (terrorism, piracy, drug trafficking, fishery protection, offshore protection and so on). Much of the navy's work goes on every day of the year, in peace or war, for different government departments - mundane some of it, often unsung, but vital. (See "First Sea Lord's Flag Hoist" online).
    2. The UK has 14 Overseas Territories - their defence is our responsibility. The Army and RAF can play a small part in this, but the work falls mostly to the Royal Navy and Royal Marines. The RN's ships also play a part in humanitarian assistance worldwide - aid to Haiti after the earthquake, hurricane relief in the Caribbean, disaster relief in Bangladesh and so on.
    3. In short, our island trading nation must protect its people, homeland, territories and trade routes. 70% of the earth's surface is sea and perhaps a half of the world's population lives within 100km (60 miles) of the sea. The sea thus provides enormous access, much from international waters, and naval aircraft from aircraft carriers, and smaller ships, add enormously to the flexibility that warships offer.
    4. If you question the need for aircraft carriers, first, look at where they have been involved in the past (Korean War, Suez crisis, Malaysian conflict, (Vietnam War), Falklands War, early stages of the invasion of Iraq, Libya (four nations' carriers, but HMS Ark Royal paid off and HMS Illustrious in refit)). Second, ask why it is that more countries are now building, or have, aircraft carriers than in the past. China is new to the carrier club, and India and France also have carriers under construction; Russia, Brazil, Thailand, Italy, Spain, France all have carriers as does the USA of course. What is it that they see that some Britons seem not to see? (See "List of aircraft carriers by country" + "Why the carriers?" - both easily found in an online search).
    5. Carriers are expensive - yes. Two is the minimum needed to ensure that one is in service. A bigger deck allows for greater flexibility of aircraft operations; the steel to build a larger vessel is not a significant cost.
    6. Big changes to the specification (deck launching and recovery systems) will cost more. But pu

  • Comment number 99.

    1. At 08:27am 28th Apr 2011, Colin wrote:

    Perhaps we should have kept the Ark Royal and the Sea Harriers ????

    ---------------------------------------------------------------------------

    Here's a cut and paste of the reasons the Ark Royal was scrapped from a friend of mine:

    Ok having a carrier and harriers to run off it is not the same as having a carrier and an operational air wing. You cannot run war ops from a carrier without a runup of both the men and machines. Ark had its crew runup in 2009 thanks to help from our NATO allies. The FAA and RAF were a sideshow to this.

    In more detail.

    In 2001 Labour refused to pay for the re-engineing of the Sea Harrier (SHAR) because the MOD budget was being cut in real terms to pay for spiralling welfare projects. Without SHAR the invincible class has no organic ADF outside of supporting elements and T45 was delayed by several years at this point. so without the T45 ASTER ADF umbrella or SHAR the invinvible class cannot put up an AA cap or equivlent which means an enemy airforce with antiship missiles can get in uncomfortably close. SHAR with blue vixen was actually an outstanding fighter and the airframes were fine but the engines were shagged so it was a bit of a silly decision. so that's when the class lost it's ability to operate outside of ground based aircover or coalition carrier support.

    In 2006 when Afghanistan was ramping up Gordon Brown did not want to pay for anymore of TBlairs moral based crusades and would not authorise the deployment of tornado to Afghan because it cost too much to run. Instead Joint Force Harrier which was pretty shagged out anyway (taking up SHARs spots on the Invincibles and being used and abused in Kosovo) was sent out there because it's cheap as chips to run with a small logs tail because harrier is a tough tiny little thing.

    Anyway long story short JFH was taken off its carrier rotation, the FAA and RAF training cycle was broken and in 2006 we could not generate a full 12 harrier airwing from residual harrier capability in the UK due to committed frames and pilots in the Ghan. Upon the return of harrier in 2009 (when spending ramped up for Afghan due to the spate of deaths and the inability of Brown to hold the Commons in check re; his inability to fund it) the Invincibles were down to this - Invincible was decommed in the naval reserve as spare parts, Illustrious was re-rolled as a helicopter commando carrier with C3 facilities taking up a large amount of the old hangar space - it can run harriers but not generate CAS or CAP functions. So basically it was down to ark royal which could embark as of 2009 6 functioning harrier GR9s. It would be a mighty struggle to generate the 12 needed for a full airwing on a war footing. WE did not have an operating UK airwing on Ark in 2009-2010. She did her final tour with some foreign aircrew and harriers in hangar to make up the numbers.

    the point here is that we didnt have a carrier strike capability from 2006-2009 - for those 3 years it was not needed, the SDSR decision was based on it continuing to be unnecassary given the advancements in force multipliers on the expensive and completed GR4 upgrade program coupled with brimstone and stormshadow.

    The maths done by the MOD had the CVF ISD as 2014. We would have had a total carrier gap with or without the withdrawl of Ark from 2011 (planned refit) anyway. The push to 2018 is down to GBrown and nothing to do with the SDSR.

    In the end Ark with 6 gr9 does not constitute cost effective carrier strike. The GR9 is not a real strike fighter like the GR4 or f15e it's a CAS platform with glorified bolt ons to make up for the late arrival of typhoon, the retirement of Jaguar and the shortfall in GR4 numbers. As such it can't cart around stormshadow and has to drop stores in the sea before it can land as its bring back weight is very low. It's not a day one war fighter.

    Would Ark be useful off the coast of libya. Yes. did the unfunded spending requirements mean the retirement of two entire types. Yes. The F3 and GR9 went. The GR4 stayed because it's the UKs strike fighter until Typhoon tranche 3. Has the RAF shown that it can generate effective day 1 strike capability from the UK exceeding the capabilities of anything the Ark could put up even if it happened to be on station with 12 gr9? Yes.

  • Comment number 100.

    Well of course we still had a Harrier capability when the new A/C s were designed which is why some numnut didn't bother istalling a catapult. The mods will affect the ships, storage of aircraft will be further limited. Now of course Harrier is scrapped and we have no VTOL capability and Eurofighter will need mods more cost. Who said we have a recession? Of course the logical thing to do was to mothball the two carriers we did have instead of scrapping them post haste and then have the right aircraft in place for the new carriers- but a Billion quid??? £1,000, 000,000? I would really like to be a fly on the wall when MOD told the Treasury and not so much as a squeak beforehand.

 

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