Royal Navy aircraft carrier costs ‘to double’

The cost of two new aircraft carriers being built for the Royal Navy is expected to be almost twice the original estimate, the government is expected to confirm this week.

Royal Navy aircraft carrier costs ‘to double’

The cost of two new aircraft carriers being built for the Royal Navy is expected to be almost twice the original estimate, the government is expected to confirm this week.

In the latest budget, the Ministry of Defence is set to estimate the cost of the two ships at £6.2bn.

The department says it is renegotiating the contract to avoid further significant rises.

Six years ago, when the contract was approved, costs were put at £3.65bn.

The defence project is one of the biggest ever undertaken in the UK and has been beset by construction and design delays.

A government source said it had inherited a flawed contract that was now being renegotiated to ensure industry shared the burden of any future rises.

During the course of the project, an order for carrier jump jets – capable of short take-offs and vertical landings – was switched to jets with a longer range that could carry more weapons.

However, in February last year, the MoD decided to revert to the original jets for logistical and financial reasons.

This “U-turn” saw £74m of taxpayers’ money go “down the drain”, Labour’s Margaret Hodge, the chairwoman of the Commons Public Accounts Committee, said in September.

The cross-party committee, which assesses value for money in government spending, has said it still regards the project as “a huge technical and commercial risk” and was not convinced the MoD had it under control.

It said in its report that officials had made basic errors, such as failing to factor in the cost of inflation and VAT.

Assembly work is taking place on both of the 65,000-tonne carriers at a specially extended dry dock at Rosyth, on the River Forth in Dunfermline.

The HMS Queen Elizabeth, which will not be finished until 2016 at the earliest, will be delivered before the HMS Prince of Wales.

The Royal Navy says the ships will carry helicopters until 2020, when the fighter jets will become available.

The UK currently has only one aircraft carrier – HMS Illustrious – but this cannot be used for strike aircraft, only helicopters. This has led to warnings of a decade-long capability gap.

Source: BBC.

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