UK may axe carriers, Trident safe -defence source

Discussion in 'Americas' started by EagleOne, Sep 17, 2010.

  1. EagleOne

    EagleOne Regular Member

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    * Scrapping orders for two new carriers would save billions

    * No plans to scale back Trident nuclear missile system

    * Tornado combat planes seen retired by 2020

    By Mohammed Abbas

    LONDON, Aug 19 (Reuters) - Britain may cancel one or both of its planned new aircraft carriers to cut costs but there are no plans to scale back the country's nuclear deterrent, a senior Ministry of Defence source said on Thursday.

    The source, speaking on condition of anonymity, told Reuters Britain's ageing fleet of 106 Tornado fighter planes would be retired by 2020, five years before they are due to leave service.

    There were no plans to scale down a new fleet of Trident nuclear missile-carrying submarines, whose 20-billion-pound ($31.27 billion) cost has led to a dispute between the Ministry of Defence (MoD) and the Treasury over who should pay.

    The MoD faces a 37-billion-pound shortfall over the next 10 years, and analysts expect a cut of up to 20 percent in the ministry's budget by 2015, part of a government drive to slash spending to reduce a big budget deficit. The MoD's core budget this year was 36.9 billion pounds.

    Britain's military has complained of a strain on resources and personnel from fighting wars in Afghanistan and Iraq. The previous Labour government gave the go-ahead in 2007 for two new aircraft carriers, which would be the largest ships ever to sail with the Royal Navy, at a cost of 5.2 billion pounds.

    "We could have one, two or no new aircraft carriers ... All options are on the table. That does not mean we are leaning towards one particular option, but none should be considered as too radical," the MoD source said.

    JOBS AT STAKE

    Work is under way on the carriers, preserving about 10,000 jobs at British shipyards, according to media reports.

    The MoD is conducting a sweeping review, due to report in October, of Britain's future military needs and ways to provide capability more cheaply. The decisions on where to cut will be made by mid-September, the MoD source said.

    Defence Secretary Liam Fox has accused the Labour government of spending beyond its means on expensive military equipment.

    The Queen Elizabeth class carriers, due to enter service in 2016 and 2018, are being built by a consortium including BAE Systems (BAES.L), Babcock International (BAB.L) and Thales (TCFP.PA).

    The MoD source said one area where cuts were not expected was replacing Trident, whose renewal is due in the early 2020s.

    The MoD source scotched media and think tank reports that the system could be scaled down to save money, by using fewer submarines for example, or reducing their patrols.

    "There's no way Trident will be scaled back further ... It's current capability will be maintained," the MoD source said.

    British media reports say retiring the Tornado fleet early could save 7.5 billion pounds. Britain also has 45 Harrier aircraft, which are also expected to be phased out by 2020.

    "The current plans are to retire the Harrier and Tornado jets by 2020," the MoD source said, partly because the jets were nearing the end of their useful lives and partly to save money.

    The aircrafts' capabilities would instead be at least partly replaced by new Typhoon and Joint Strike Fighter aircraft.

    Britain has ordered 160 of the 70 million-pound Eurofighter Typhoon combat planes, but analysts say it may scrap plans to buy an additional 48.

    Made by Britain's BAE, Italy's Finmeccanica (SIFI.MI) and European aerospace group EADS (EAD.PA), the consortium has said cancelling orders would cost thousands of jobs and analysts have said this could incur a hefty penalty.

    The MoD source said an option being considered was to go ahead with the full order and sell off surplus older versions of the aircraft. Oman has said it intends to buy an unspecified number of the planes from Britain.

    UK may axe carriers, Trident safe -defence source | Reuters
     
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  3. pmaitra

    pmaitra Moderator Moderator

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    Very useful post.

    I think this is an opportunity for India to pick up one or two of them at a discounted price while Admiral Gorshkov keeps eluding the deadline!
     

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