Lack of clarity over Royal Navy’s aircraft carriers is debilitating

There is a ‘debilitating lack of clarity’ over the Royal Navy’s Carrier Strike programme, MPs have warned.

In a report published last week, the Public Accounts Committee (PAC) accused ministers of being unclear over what they want the carriers – HMS Queen Elizabeth and HMS Prince of Wales – to achieve.

The Commons public spending watchdog warned the Ministry of Defence’s (MOD) ‘failure to fund several key supporting capabilities will restrict how it can use the carriers for many years’, says Forces Net.

The cross-party committee said: “The new Crowsnest radar system has been delayed by 18 months because of poor contractor performance and inadequate departmental oversight.

“The department also lacks the support ships it needs to supply the carriers and has not yet developed a long-term solution to move people and goods to and from a carrier group.”

The committee also highlighted a ‘disturbing lack of clarity’ over costs for purchasing and supporting the F-35B Lightning II jet aircraft that will operate from the carriers, as well as the number the UK will need – or can afford – in the future.

The UK has ordered 48 of the aircraft so far and had originally intended to purchase 138, although its assumptions on how the carriers will be used have changed since then.

An MOD spokesman said the committee and the National Audit Office had recognised that “considerable progress” had been made since their last reports.

The spokesman added: “Carrier Strike is a complex challenge which relies on a mix of capabilities and platforms. We remain committed to investing in this capability.

“Despite the disruptions of Covid-19, the Carrier Strike group is on track for its first operational deployment in 2021.”

The committee’s chair, Meg Hillier MP, said: “As things stand the UK has two world-class aircraft carriers with limited capability because the wider debate about the UK’s strategic defence capability – and funding – has been repeatedly delayed.

“This debilitating lack of clarity threatens our national defences yet it’s not likely to be resolved when the strategic defence review and the comprehensive spending review look likely to be out of step with each other once again.

“The MOD and the nation it’s responsible for defending cannot afford for this rare beacon of success, in delivering the two carriers, to descend into yet another failure to deliver defence capability.

“The MOD must recognise that is a real risk, a real risk to a vital part of our national defences, and it must demonstrate now a clear plan to capitalise on the massive investment the UK has already made – and deliver Carrier Strike.”

Read the full article in Forces Net.

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This article was written and/or edited by the UK-based MIN team.