Both the National Audit Office and Public Accounts Committee today published reports on the MOD's Carrier Strike capability. Several media sources have reported on inaccurate claims that a full Carrier Strike capability will not be achieved until 2030. This is not true.
The more capable Carrier variant of the Joint Strike Fighter fast jet will begin operating from our aircraft carrier from 2020, with six UK jets available for operations. By 2023, this number will increase to 12 UK jets onboard and we will be able to work with our allies to increase that number because of the interoperability that the Carrier variant Joint Strike Fighter allows.
Defence Secretary Philip Hammond said:
"We are tackling the inherited black hole in the Defence Budget and, earlier this month, the National Audit Office [NAO] rightly recognised the work that this Government is undertaking to bring the Department's finances back into balance.
"When this Government came into power, the Queen Elizabeth Class carriers were already £1.6bn over budget. As part of an overall package of measures taken in the Strategic Defence and Security Review we have reduced overall spending on the Carrier Strike Programme by £4.4bn over the next ten years.
"The NAO and the Public Accounts Committee have both acknowledged that our decision to build a second aircraft carrier makes financial sense. Converting one of the Queen Elizabeth Class aircraft carriers to operate the more capable Carrier variant of the Joint Strike Fighter fast jet from 2020 will maximise our military capability and enhance interoperability with our allies.
"Operating the more cost effective Carrier variant fast jet will, in the long term, offset the conversion costs and provide us with aircraft that have a longer range and carry a greater payload. Until our new Carrier capability comes into service, we can utilise our extensive basing and overflight rights to project decisive air power, as we showed during the Libya campaign."