Carrier costs 'to rise by £500m'

Friday, October 29, 2010
The overall cost of completing the two Queen Elizabeth class aircraft carriers is to rise by at least £500m due to the installation of catapult and arrestor equipment and changes to the flight deck, according to Defence Secretary Liam Fox.
Fox said that estimates of the cost of the changes were "ranging upwards from £500m".
HMS Queen Elizabeth, the first of the two carriers, had been due to launch in 2016, but the Strategic Defence and Security Review (SDSR) set out plans to delay the introduction of the carrier until 2020 and to include the 'cat and trap' system on the flight deck.
The move will mean that the carrier can launch conventional Joint Strike Fighters, as well as US and French jets as part of plans currently being drawn up, but it will also mean changes to the workload and timescales for UK shipyards.
In an interview with BBC Scotland during a visit to the Govan shipyard, Fox said: "There are estimates of the cost, ranging upwards from £500m. There are a lot of studies going on, which will determine exactly what system, what costs and where.
"But for me, the important thing was that we made this change to give ourselves a greater range in terms of the aircraft we could operate, a bigger payload for the aircraft, and greater interoperability with our major allies. And if we're going to have this for something that's going to last us 40 or 50 years, we should take the time to get it right."
In Parliament on 26 October, defence minister Peter Luff said it had not yet been decided whether one or both carriers would be converted to use catapult and arrestor equipment.
"We are investigating the optimum means of achieving this outcome, working with industry and our international partners," said Luff.
"No decisions have been taken as to the type of system, delivery dates or procurement route, or whether both carriers will be converted."
A Ministry of Defence spokesman said that talks with industry on the issue were ongoing.