Carrier jets chaos: MoD attacked over 'flawed' decision to switch to new Royal Navy fighter aircraft

 

The Ministry of Defence was strongly criticised by MPs today over the “flawed” decision to switch fighter aircraft for the Royal Navy's new carriers.

It was announced in the 2010 Strategic Defence and Security Review that the Government would adopt the carrier variant of the US-built F35 Joint Strike Fighter rather than the "jump jet" version chosen by the previous Labour government.

Ministers argued that the carrier variant was a more capable aircraft and that it would increase "interoperability" with other navies - even though it meant mothballing one of the two carriers on grounds of affordability.

However last May, Defence Secretary Philip Hammond announced the MoD was reverting to the jump jet version amid fears the costs of fitting the necessary catapults and arrestor gear - "cats and traps" - were spiralling out of control.

In a highly critical report, the Commons Defence Committee said the 2010 decision to go for the carrier variant was a mistake which led to increased costs and further delays to the carrier programme.

"It is clear that the decision was rushed and based upon incomplete and inaccurate policy development. It was taken without the MoD understanding how the change could be implemented," the committee said.

"Perhaps the primary example of how little the MoD understood about this decision is the fact that it was supposed to improve interoperability. This turned out to be incorrect.

"We urge the MoD to learn the lessons of this closed, rushed and flawed decision of 2010."

The committee also complained that the lack of a proper defence industrial strategy put the UK at a disadvantage compared with competitor countries.

It said that such a strategy should combine a commitment to maintain the ability of the UK to act nationally with an understanding of where a level mutual interdependence or partnership with allies is acceptable.

"We do not understand how we can have confidence in a national security strategy which does not show a clear grasp of what is needed for the defence of the United Kingdom, and how this can be ensured," the committee said.

"The overriding reason for the purchase of any item of defence equipment must be its quality and the requirements of the armed forces. We consider nonetheless that the Government should take into account in buying equipment the enhanced opportunities for export of equipment in use by UK armed forces."

Defence equipment minister Philip Dunne said the MoD's newly published 10-year equipment plan would ensure the armed forces get the hardware they need in the years ahead.

"The increased financial contingency will help cover future risk and make our equipment programme affordable. There is also greater information for industry about our priorities, helping them to invest in the future capabilities our troops need," he said.

He insisted that the switch to the carrier variant of the F35 had been "right at the time", but that "unacceptable cost growth, technical risk and project delays" meant the decision to revert to the jump jet was "in the best interest of defence".

Shadow defence secretary Jim Murphy said: "This is another blow to the country's confidence in the Government's competence on defence.

"Days after confusion and contradiction on defence spending the chaos of the aircraft carrier decision is laid bare.

"This wasted time and money led to a serious capability gap and exposed lacking knowledge of defence procurement.

"The UK has paid at least an extra £100 million to have no aircraft to fly from an aircraft carrier for years.

"This is an important report. Industry have warned that without a defence industrial strategy tens of thousands of jobs are at risk and now influential experts outline the damage and competitive disadvantage brought by its absence.

"There is a loss of skills, contradictions in export policy, worries over investment in science and no strategy to support sovereign capabilities.

"A new industrial strategy must improve the speed of procurement, share the burden of risk with industry, support small businesses and strengthen collaboration between companies, the Department and the military.

"Labour has consistently called for a defence industrial strategy and our procurement review chimes with this report's analysis. Ministers must respond, listen to these arguments and change course."

PA

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooks
ebooksAn introduction to the ground rules of British democracy
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
SPONSORED FEATURES
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: IT Support Technician

£20000 - £22000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is an intermediate help de...

Recruitment Genius: Personal Injury Fee Earners

£15000 - £25000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This specialist personal injury...

Recruitment Genius: New Business Sales Executive / Business Development

£20000 - £30000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Join a fast growing, UK based I...

Recruitment Genius: Tennant Liaison Officer

Negotiable: Recruitment Genius: An experienced TLO is required to manage, deli...

Day In a Page

Turkey-Kurdish conflict: Obama's deal with Ankara is a betrayal of Syrian Kurds and may not even weaken Isis

US betrayal of old ally brings limited reward

Since the accord, the Turks have only waged war on Kurds while no US bomber has used Incirlik airbase, says Patrick Cockburn
VIPs gather for opening of second Suez Canal - but doubts linger over security

'A gift from Egypt to the rest of the world'

VIPs gather for opening of second Suez Canal - but is it really needed?
Jeremy Corbyn dresses abysmally. That's a great thing because it's genuine

Jeremy Corbyn dresses abysmally. That's a great thing because it's genuine

Fashion editor, Alexander Fury, applauds a man who clearly has more important things on his mind
The male menopause and intimations of mortality

Aches, pains and an inkling of mortality

So the male menopause is real, they say, but what would the Victorians, 'old' at 30, think of that, asks DJ Taylor
Man Booker Prize 2015: Anna Smaill - How can I possibly be on the list with these writers I have idolised?

'How can I possibly be on the list with these writers I have idolised?'

Man Booker Prize nominee Anna Smaill on the rise of Kiwi lit
Bettany Hughes interview: The historian on how Socrates would have solved Greece's problems

Bettany Hughes interview

The historian on how Socrates would have solved Greece's problems
Art of the state: Pyongyang propaganda posters to be exhibited in China

Art of the state

Pyongyang propaganda posters to be exhibited in China
Mildreds and Vanilla Black have given vegetarian food a makeover in new cookbooks

Vegetarian food gets a makeover

Long-time vegetarian Holly Williams tries to recreate some of the inventive recipes in Mildreds and Vanilla Black's new cookbooks
The haunting of Shirley Jackson: Was the gothic author's life really as bleak as her fiction?

The haunting of Shirley Jackson

Was the gothic author's life really as bleak as her fiction?
Bill Granger recipes: Heading off on holiday? Try out our chef's seaside-inspired dishes...

Bill Granger's seaside-inspired recipes

These dishes are so easy to make, our chef is almost embarrassed to call them recipes
Ashes 2015: Tourists are limp, leaderless and distinctly UnAustralian

Tourists are limp, leaderless and distinctly UnAustralian

A woefully out-of-form Michael Clarke embodies his team's fragile Ashes campaign, says Michael Calvin
Blairites be warned, this could be the moment Labour turns into Syriza

Andrew Grice: Inside Westminster

Blairites be warned, this could be the moment Labour turns into Syriza
HMS Victory: The mystery of Britain's worst naval disaster is finally solved - 271 years later

The mystery of Britain's worst naval disaster is finally solved - 271 years later

Exclusive: David Keys reveals the research that finally explains why HMS Victory went down with the loss of 1,100 lives
Survivors of the Nagasaki atomic bomb attack: Japan must not abandon its post-war pacifism

'I saw people so injured you couldn't tell if they were dead or alive'

Nagasaki survivors on why Japan must not abandon its post-war pacifism
Jon Stewart: The voice of Democrats who felt Obama had failed to deliver on his 'Yes We Can' slogan, and the voter he tried hardest to keep onside

The voter Obama tried hardest to keep onside

Outgoing The Daily Show host, Jon Stewart, became the voice of Democrats who felt the President had failed to deliver on his ‘Yes We Can’ slogan. Tim Walker charts the ups and downs of their 10-year relationship on screen