ACA awards aircraft-carrier contracts

The Aircraft Carrier Alliance (ACA) has announced the award of contracts worth £333m to companies across the UK to help to build the Royal Navy’s new Queen Elizabeth-class aircraft carriers.

Five subcontracts have been awarded to suppliers for equipment to be installed on the ships and services for their assembly, bringing the total value of subcontracts awarded so far on the programme to almost £1.1bn.

Subcontracts awarded on 14 January include £120m to Imtech Marine & Offshore in Billingham, Teesside and Portsmouth for heating, ventilation and air conditioning; and £105m to Ship Support Services based near Rosyth for paint and scaffolding for the build process.

‘This news should reassure those who doubt this government’s commitment to the programme,’ said Quentin Davies, minister for defence equipment and support. ‘These subcontracts will contribute thousands of jobs throughout the supply chain in addition to the thousands of jobs at the main shipyards that are building the ships.

‘The build phase of the carrier programme is now well under way. The first units have already been delivered to Rosyth, where these ships – the cornerstone of the Royal Navy of the future – will be assembled.’

A report in the Guardian newspaper on 13 January suggested that the new carriers were under threat as the UK will not be able to afford to build them.

Similarly, a Royal United Services Institute report entitled Capability Cost Trends: Implications for the Defence Review by Prof Malcolm Chalmers claims that increasing defence costs and cuts in the Ministry of Defence’s budget will make it impossible to preserve current numbers of service personnel and front-line capabilities.

In the report, published on 12 January, Chalmers said: ‘In the absence of a fundamental change in strategic orientation, and even allowing for further efficiency savings, projected reductions in budgets and personnel will require large reductions in the number of front-line capabilities.

‘If cutbacks are evenly spread, ground formations [including infantry, armour, artillery and support regiments] would have to fall from 97 to 79, available aircraft [fixed-wing and rotary] would be reduced from 760 to 615 and major vessels [submarines, carriers, escorts and major supply ships] would fall from 57 to 46.’

Key carrier facts:

• Displacement: 65,000 tonnes

• Length: 280m

• Width: 70m

• Range: 8,000 to 10,000 nautical miles (15,000km to 18,500km)

• 56m from keel to masthead

• Four acres (16,000m2) of sovereign territory provided by each ship

• Capacity for 40 aircraft

• 110MW power station on board each ship

• 1.5 million square metres of paintwork

• 80,000 tonnes of steel is on order for the two ships