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10 May 12. In the face of unacceptable cost growth and project delays, the Government announced its decision to deliver Carrier Strike capability using a different type of Joint Strike Fighter (JSF) jet.

The MoD will move away from the Carrier Variant (CV) JSF and our Armed Forces will instead operate the short take-off and vertical landing (STOVL) variant JSF.

Defence Secretary Philip Hammond explained to the House of Commons that this decision had to be made now because:

* Sticking with the Carrier Variant would delay Carrier Strike by at least three years to 2023 at the earliest;

* The cost of fitting catapults and arrestor gear (‘cats and traps’) to the Queen Elizabeth Class Carrier to operate CV aircraft has doubled from around £1BN to £2BN; and

* The STOVL aircraft offers the UK the ability to have an aircraft carrier available continuously. Although no decision on budgeting for crew and support costs will be taken until the next Strategic Defence and Security Review (SDSR) in 2015, the second carrier would be able to provide capability while the first vessel is in maintenance.

The STOVL aircraft has made significant progress since the SDSR was published over 18 months ago. The US Marine Corps has conducted successful STOVL flights from their ships; the UK will receive our first STOVL aircraft this summer; the Queen Elizabeth is due to arrive for sea trials in early 2017 and we now plan to start our STOVL flight trials off the HMS Queen Elizabeth carrier from 2018.

The UK will also benefit from full interoperability with the US Marine Corps and the Italian Navy – both of which operate the STOVL aircraft.

Defence Secretary Philip Hammond said, “The 2010 SDSR decision on carriers was right at the time, but the facts have changed and therefore so too must our approach. This Government will not blindly pursue projects and ignore cost growth and delays. Carrier Strike with ‘cats and traps’ using the Carrier Variant jet no longer represents the best way of delivering carrier strike and I am not prepared to tolerate a three year further delay to reintroducing our Carrier Strike capability. This announcement means we remain on course to deliver Carrier Strike in 2020 as a key part of our Future Force 2020.”

Chief of the Defence Staff, General Sir David Richards, said, “Our Armed Forces have a successful history of operating short take-off and vertical landing aircraft and our pilots are already flying trials in this variant of the Joint Strike Fighter alongside our US allies. These stealth aircraft will be the most advanced fast jets our Armed Forces have ever operated and I know they will do so with the greatest skill and professionalism.”

Defence: Carrier Strike Capability


2.23 pm

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Ministry of Defence (Lord Astor of Hever): My Lords, first, I am sure that the whole House will wish to join me in offering sincere condolences to the families and friends of Guardsman Michael Roland of the 1st Battalion, the Grenadier Guards; Corporal Andrew Roberts of 23 Pioneer Regiment, the Royal Logistic Corps; and Private Ratu Silibaravi of 23 Pioneer Regiment, the Royal Logistic Corps, who were killed on operations in Afghanistan recently. My thoughts are also with the wounded and I pay tribute to the courage and fortitude in which they face their rehabilitation.
The Statement is as follows: “With permission, Mr Speaker, I would like to make a Statement on the carrier strike programme.
The strategic defence and security review considered the carrier strike programme, put in place by the previous Government, as part of a wide-ranging review of options for delivering effective future defence while dealing with the black hole in Labour’s defence budget and the unaffordable ‘fantasy’ equipment plan bequeathed to us by the party opposite. W

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