The Ministry of Defence (MoD) has delayed two aircraft carrier projects as part of a revised spending plan designed to meet an estimated £2bn deficit in its defence budget.

HMS Queen Elizabeth and HMS Prince of Wales were due to enter service in 2014 and 2016 respectively.

In a written statement, John Hutton, secretary of state for defence, said that work on the two aircraft carriers would be delayed to sustain jobs.

Hutton said: ‘The new aircraft carriers will be brought more closely into line with the introduction of the Joint Combat Aircraft, which will result in a change to the delivery schedule.

‘Construction on the ships is already under way and will continue with minimal implications to jobs and industry.

‘The programme will still provide stability for the core shipyard workforce, including 10,000 UK jobs.’

A review of the MoD’s Acquisition Change Programme will be conducted by Bernard Gray to ensure projects are delivered on time and on budget.

However, the defence industry remains unconvinced that delays to these projects would resolve the problems that remain in the defence budget.

Ian Godden, secretary of the Defence Industries Council (DIC), said: ‘It is particularly disappointing that the government has failed to use defence as a means of stimulating the economy.

‘The industry has a number of projects on hold which, if funded, could quickly create or safeguard thousands of jobs across the country.

‘These are projects that are needed by the Armed Forces and would be good for the economy.

‘This is an opportunity not to be missed but sadly it appears to be one that the government wishes to let pass by.’

In the same statement, the MoD announced it would invest £70m in upgrading 12 Lynx Mark 9 helicopters with new engines and would redeploy Merlin helicopters from Iraq to Afghanistan next year in an attempt to increase aircraft capacity.

This follows the government’s pledge in October to invest £700m in 700 more protected vehicles in Afghanistan.

In addition, the Future Lynx contract signed with AugustaWestland will deliver greater operational capacity by supplying 34 aircrafts for the British Army and 28 for the Royal Navy.

Graham Cole, managing director of AgustaWestland, said: ‘I am very pleased to say that Future Lynx remains a critical element of the UK armed forces’ helicopter plans and that the upgrade of the Lynx Mk 9 aircraft will provide a major boost to the British Army’s capability in the short term.


‘We also look forward to working with the MoD to provide the training and support solutions for the Future Lynx.’