Bids for a feasibility study for the two new aircraft carriers announced in the Strategic Defence Review will be invited this autumn, according to Admiral Sir Jock Slater, the First Sea Lord.
Speaking at the Commons Defence Select Committee this week, Britain’s top naval officer said that if the ships did not materialise the review would have to be rewritten.
Bruce George, chairman of the committee, said he wanted annual updates on the progress of the carrier programme in the face of threats from what he described as ‘the Treasury submarine force’.
Slater was sceptical about the idea that the Eurofighter could be ‘marinised’ as the carriers’ combat aircraft, and indicated that he favoured the US-UK Joint Strike Fighter instead.
Slater said he ‘very much regretted the loss of two nuclear submarines’, but cutting the nuclear-powered hunter-killer subs from the fleet of 12 was the price for the new carriers.
Among the five Type 22 frigates which are being decommissioned early, HMS London would still have ’13 years of life left in her’ when she goes next year, said Slater. He suggested that Brazil and Chile might be potential buyers.