Threat to Defence Projects if Carrier Strike Runs Over Budget
(Source: UK House of Commons Public Accounts Committee; issued Jan 19, 2018)
A second House of Commons committee has warned that the Ministry of Defence’s budgets are stretched so tight that any overrun on the aircraft carrier and F-35 programs will put other defense projects at risk. (RAF photo)
Carrier Strike is central to the Government's plans for Britain's future defence. It incorporates two Queen Elizabeth class aircraft carriers, new F-35 Lightning II jets and a new radar system—Crowsnest.

Other programmes futures threatened if carrier strike goes over budget
The defence budget is very strained in the light of commitments made in the last Strategic Defence and Security Review. Carrier Strike is expensive, and despite the Department assuring us that it will manage costs, there is a threat to the future of other programmes if it goes over budget.

In addition, there are aspects of Carrier Strike that still need to be fully costed as the three elements come together.

Ministry of Defence must seize opportunities over tech and jobs
For the Department to secure value for money from its significant investment in this long-term capability, it will need to ensure that the carriers and jets can be fully and flexibly used alongside other military equipment, and can be upgraded to keep pace with technological advances.

The Department must also seize opportunities to bring high-tech and skilled jobs to the UK by securing further global support contracts for the Lightning II jets.

Completion of transformation within DE&S is key to ensuring it has the necessary commercial skills and capabilities, and is well placed to win such contracts.

Chair's comments
Comment from Committee Chair, Meg Hillier MP:

"There is a lot at stake with Carrier Strike—a hugely complex, costly programme intended to be at the heart of national defence for years to come.

The project continues to leave the MoD exposed financially. Government must bring Carrier Strike in on budget or risk jeopardising the funds available for other defence programmes.

Uncertainty over some costs and the potentially negative impact of foreign exchange rates mean this will be no easy task.

There are also questions over the Lightning II jets and the eventual deployment of Carrier Strike, which could threaten the programme’s value for money.

All this is taking place as the MoD awaits clarity on the future size of the defence budget.

We will be keeping a close eye on this programme and will expect the Department to keep us abreast of developments."


Click here for the full report (85 PDF pages) on the UK Parliament website.

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Delivering Carrier Strike: Introduction
(Source: UK House of Commons Public Accounts Committee; issued Jan 19, 2018)
The Ministry of Defence (the Department) is buying two new aircraft carriers, a fleet of new Lightning II jets and an airborne radar system called Crowsnest fitted to Merlin helicopters. Deploying a single carrier, a squadron of jets and Crowsnest is referred to as Carrier Strike.

The Department expects to spend over £14 billion on this equipment up to 2021, when Carrier Strike is to be first used in military operations. Between 2021 and 2026, the Department will then introduce the second carrier and more jets, and complete trials and training to enable the carriers to undertake a range of roles such as acting as helicopter carriers or transporting troops. This represents the full Carrier Enabled Power Projection capability.

The Department is planning for the carriers and jets to be in use for 50 and 40 years respectively, and the Government considers they will form a significant part of its response to changes in global security. The previous Committee reported on Carrier Strike in 2013, concluding that the Department faced major challenges around the affordability of the programme.

In November 2013, the Department re-baselined the contract, agreeing a price of £6.212 billion for both carriers with the manufacturing consortium, the Aircraft Carrier Alliance. The Carrier Strike programme is a very high priority for the Department and we expect to return to it as the programme progresses towards being operational in 2021.

We initially took evidence from the Department on 11 October 2017. We subsequently wrote to the Department with some follow-up questions, but the Department’s written response was unsatisfactory. We therefore recalled the Department to give further evidence on 4 December 2017. As part of that recall session, we also took evidence from the outgoing Chief Executive of the Defence Equipment and Support Organisation about lessons from his time in office.

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