Thursday, 4 November 2010

Two carriers cheaper than one BAE bargain

You want two aircraft carriers, that will be £5.2bn. Oh, you only want one aircraft carrier, that will be £5.5bn.

That seems to be the sum of BAE chief Ian King's letter to Prime Minister David Cameron on the Royal Navy supercarrier contracts.

The Treasury has just released a copy of the letter which confirms what we were already being told - that breaking the contract to build two carriers would be more expensive than carrying on with construction, even if one of the ships is mothballed and there will be no jets to fly of the decks of the other until 2020.

The King letter also makes the case for 5000 jobs and the shipbuilding skill that will be retained by carrying on with the contract.

He acknowledges that there may be some "scepticism about some of this analysis" but King full square behind it.

King also has a fascinating sentence about not being able to present the carrier case to Cameron personally and he highlights the discussions he would like to have about military aerospace. This is an obvious plea for negotiation and a reference to the £3bn Nimrod MRA4 contract that was cancelled, leaving a huge gap not just at Kinloss but in Britain's maritime defences.

It seems every man jack was on the case to save the carriers, when in fact the contracts were so binding that they were assured anyway. Meanwhile the top brass at the MoD made a pathetic presentation on the Nimrod programmme which, I'm told, Cameron took one look at - £3bn spend converting ageing airframes, nothing to show for it - and binned.

Result - Kinloss closed, when the RAF had planned on keeping it open and closing the neighbouring Tornado base in Lossiemouth.

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