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Britain will have a second aircraft carrier

By DPF Admin18th September 2014August 6th, 2019Area Updates, Latest News, Northern Updates, Southern Updates

David Cameron has reversed plans to mothball one of two new £3 billion aircraft carriers.

The Prime Minister said that the 65,000-ton HMS Prince of Wales will be brought into service instead of being kept as a reserve vessel.

Defence cuts had meant that only one of the ships, HMS Queen Elizabeth, would enter active service.

There were concerns that Britain would have been left without a functioning aircraft carrier when HMS Queen Elizabeth was being serviced or repaired.

However, at the Nato summit yesterday in Wales, Mr Cameron said the decision would “ensure that we will always have one carrier available, 100 per cent of the time”.

The two carriers are the biggest ships ever built for the Royal Navy. Mr Cameron said: “They are an investment in British security, British prosperity and our place in the world, transforming our ability to project power globally whether independently or with our allies.”

He added: “Our brand new aircraft carrier – HMS Queen Elizabeth – was named by Her Majesty in July and has now left her dry dock and is being fitted with her combat systems. She will be the mightiest ship the Royal Navy has ever put to sea, able to protect and project our interests across the globe for decades to come.” Mr Cameron’s announcement will be welcomed by defence experts who criticised the decision to mothball the HMS Prince of Wales. Admiral Sir George Zambellas, the First Sea Lord, warned earlier this year that Britain’s maritime credibility hinged on having a carrier.

The decision on the future of the vessel was not due to be taken until the spending review after next year’s general election.

The ships, which are being built at Rosyth Dockyard in Fife, are years behind schedule and, at £6.2 billion for the pair, are costing nearly twice the original budget. HMS Queen Elizabeth will not be fully operational until the end of the decade, and Britain currently also has no planes to fly from them. The Ministry of Defence has said it will buy at least 48 F35 stealth jump jets, but has so far only bought three test aircraft.

The Prime Minister also said that all 28 Nato members had reached an agreement at the conference to spend 2 per cent of GDP on defence. He said getting all the countries to agree to the commitment was a “hard-fought” battle.

“Britain is one of only four countries that currently spends 2 per cent of its GDP on defence,” Mr Cameron said.

However, military leaders have criticised the Government for not pledging to keep spending 2 per cent of GDP on defence after next year’s spending review. A study for the Royal United Services Institute this week estimated that Britain’s defence budget will fall to 1.88 per cent next financial year.

Reduced spending because of the end of Afghanistan combat operations, compared with healthy growth in the wider economy will force the share spent on defence to drop below the threshold.

Mr Cameron insisted that the Government was committed to maintaining high defence spending. He said: “Here in Britain we have the second largest defence budget in Nato and the biggest in the EU. We have taken longer term decisions to put our defence budget on a sustainable footing.

“And the fruits of this are now coming through. We are equipping all three of our services with the best and most modern military hardware money can buy.”

Mr Cameron has committed thousands of British troops to deter Russian aggression as Nato tries to reassure its Eastern European members it will protect them against Moscow.

He said 3,500 soldiers, sailors and airmen would rotate through the region on exercises over the next 15 months. Mr Cameron said that “as Russia tramples illegally over Ukraine”, Nato had to reassure Poland and the Baltic states.

British troops, numbering 1,000, will also make up as much as a quarter of Nato’s new rapid reaction spearhead force designed to be flown into a crisis at 48 hours’ notice.

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