Friday, 4 July 2008
So the contract for the two new aircraft carriers is signed. Much to the relief of the workforces in the shipbuilding industry.
Leaving aside the fact that these contracts are very lucrative and secure work for UK companies for a good while and ensure shipbuilding remains a part of the countries industry, are they in fact, value for money.
The carriers will cost 4 billion pounds
At least £4 billion as defence procurements have a history of overspend.
The USA Nimitz class carriers cost around $4.5 billion each. They are nuclear powered and carry 85 aircraft that use steam catapults to launch them.
The UK ones will not be nuclear powered, and will carry UP TO 40 aircraft.
Not being nuclear is apparently a cost issue. But it means that there can be no steam powered catapults as these require massive amounts of power. Instead there is the Ski-jump takeoff.
That severely restricts the type of aircraft that they can carry. One report is that the carriers can only use the F-35B Lockheed Martin built in the USA. This is a kind of new generation Harrier part of the joint strike fighter program. But there is a superior F-35C model already under design that won't be able to be used unless modifications to the aircraft carriers are made, despite it having superior capabilities.
The Nimitz class CV's are now some 30 years old and are still a match for most counties entire air forces. These new generation UK carriers as I understand it would have difficulty going head to head against the USS Nimitz or its sisters and coming out ahead.
I just hope that once again the armed forces do not end up with an expensive piece of kit that is always going to be, at best, just about good enough due to some 'cost saving' decisions in the planning.
We have already had helicopters that don't fly, small arms that required a certain amount of 'assistance' to fire, the Eurofighter that is great for air-to-air, but probably only a little better than what it replaces in air-to- ground.. and so on.
This is a very expensive project it is important to get it right.