Royal Navy Facing “Big Problems” with Its Carrier Strike Plan as MPs Urge MoD to 'Crack On' and Tackle Delays (excerpt)
(Source: The News; published Sept. 26, 2020)
By Tom Cotterill
Whitehall watchdogs have demanded dithering defence chiefs urgently tackle ‘big problems’ in the Royal Navy’s ambitious aircraft carrier programme and put an end to delays bogging down the nation’s most important military projects.
Parliament’s powerful public accounts committee is gearing up to grill top officials at the Ministry of Defence (MoD) on Monday (Sept. 28—Ed.) as part of an inquiry into the navy’s multi-billion pound carrier strike plan.
It comes after the group blasted the MoD for its ‘lamentable failure to get a grip’ on military equipment procurement. And despite numerous warnings, the committee has told The News there are still too many ‘unanswered questions’ about the carrier strike programme.
Central to these are how much it will cost to maintain and fund the task force. But there are also concerns over whether or not Britain will have bought enough of the costly F-35B stealth jets to operate effectively from the navy’s aircraft carriers, HMS Queen Elizabeth and HMS Prince of Wales.
Speaking exclusively to The News ahead of Monday’s parliamentary hearing, Meg Hillier, chairman of the public accounts committee, said: “A lot of the questions about how the carrier strike project as a whole will be delivered are still unanswered, partly because the government has dragged its feet.”
“This government hasn’t made decisions about this yet and that’s one of the big problems.” (end of excerpt)
Click here for the full story, on The News website.
Carrier Strike Inquiry
(Source: House of Commons Public Accounts Committee; undated)
Carrier Strike is a military programme to provide the ability to launch aircraft from a ship to undertake a range of military tasks. It is central to the government’s plans for the country’s armed forces and the first step towards Carrier Enabled Power Projection (CEPP), which is the government’s ambition to be able to respond to conflicts and support humanitarian relief efforts anywhere in the world at short notice.
Carrier Strike will be based around two Queen Elizabeth Class aircraft carriers – the largest warships ever built for the Royal Navy – together with Lightning II jets, which are being procured through the United States Department of Defense.
The UK Ministry of Defence (MoD) is also buying a new airborne radar system, Crowsnest, to help protect a carrier strike group. Depending on the type of deployment, the carriers will be accompanied by at least one destroyer, an anti-submarine warfare frigate, and ships for support and resupply.
The National Audit Office (NAO) has previously stated, in 2017, that the project phase to 2020 would be crucial, with little room for manoeuvre in the delivery schedule. Since then, the Department has received two new aircraft carriers into service, now has 18 Lightning II jets and has developed much of the UK infrastructure to support them.
It has delivered the carriers for £6.4 billion, which is 3% above the revised figure announced to Parliament in 2013. The Department has conducted sea trials and is working closely with the US to be ready for its first joint deployment in 2021. It has also established plans for using Carrier Strike in its early years.
The latest NAO report though finds that the MoD is now making slower progress in developing the crucial supporting activities that are needed to make full use of a carrier strike group, such as the Crowsnest radar system and the ability to resupply the carriers. In addition, it has not established a clear view on the future cost of enhancing, operating and supporting Carrier Strike, which creates the risk of future affordability pressures.
The Department will not achieve value for money from its investment to date unless it provides clarity on its future ambitions; develops its understanding of future development and operating costs; and ensures cross-command coherence and collaboration to develop the full capabilities of Carrier Strike.
[On Sept. 28] we will question senior MoD and military officials on the Carrier Strike programme and the work around it needed to make Carrier Strike fully operational.