Select Committee on Defence Second Report


121. MoD is procuring two new aircraft carriers and new carrier borne aircraft to provide the Royal Navy with a 'carrier strike' capability to meet the new environment set out in the Strategic Defence Review of 1998.

122. As with many other defence equipment programmes, our Armed Forces are likely to receive the equipment they need, and the capability they require to undertake their role, later than planned. Despite trying a new approach to procurement on the carrier programme, there is a serious risk that the carriers will enter service later than originally planned. The new carrier borne aircraft, the Joint Strike Fighter, has already suffered a two year slippage. As a consequence, there is likely to be a capability gap and the Royal Navy will be forced to run on less capable equipment, beyond the date when it was due to be withdrawn from service. This will come at a cost, both financially and in terms of reduced capability.

123. The procurement of the Joint Strike Fighter, a US-led programme, has also raised concerns about the UK's ability, in the future, to maintain and upgrade the aircraft independently of the US. To ensure it has this ability, the UK needs cast iron assurances from the US, its closest ally, that it will get all the information and technology it requires. If such assurances are not received, the question must be asked as to whether the UK should continue its involvement in the programme. This would be unfortunate, given the UK's close relationship with the US.

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Prepared 21 December 2005