May 20, 2008
U.K. set to sign aircraft carrier contract
Britain's Ministry of Defense (MOD) announced today, Tuesday 20 May 2008, that it was ready to go ahead with the contract signature for two 65,000 tonne Future Aircraft Carriers (CVF).
The contract will be placed with a joint venture to be formed by to be formed by BAE Systems and VT Group. Today, both companies welcomed the MOD announcement and said that they will now finalize arrangements for the joint venture, to be named BVT Surface Fleet, which will combine their shipbuilding and naval support businesses. They said they expect transaction documentation to be signed shortly; the agreement will then be subject to VT shareholder approval.
BVT Surface Fleet, will be a key member of the Aircraft Carrier Alliance of companies that will construct and assemble the new carriers at shipyards in Portsmouth, Barrow-in-Furness, Glasgow and Rosyth.
MOD will contract the two carriers at an initial target cost of UKP 3.9 billion (almost US$8 billion), including capitalized expenditure to date, with various incentives that are hoped to drive the cost below this figure. The ships are expected to enter service in 2014 and 2016.
U.K. Defense Secretary Des Browne said: "The two aircraft carriers will provide our front line forces with the modern, world-class capabilities they will need over the coming decades. They will support peace-keeping and conflict prevention as well as our strategic operational priorities."
The Future Aircraft Carriers (CVF) will deploy offensive air power in support of the full spectrum of future operations. This will be provided by a Joint Force Air Group (JFAG) which primarily consists of a combination of the Joint Combat Aircraft (JCA) and the Maritime Airborne Surveillance and Control (MASC) system. JCA/MASC will be capable of operating in all weathers, day and night, to provide carrier strike, as well as air defence for the carrier and offensive support for ground forces ashore. The JFAG will also operate helicopters and Unmanned Aerial Vehicles (UAVs) from all three Services in a variety of roles that could include anti-submarine/anti-surface warfare, attack and support. The Short Take-Off and Vertical Landing (STOVL) variant of the Lockheed Martin F35 Joint Strike Fighter (JSF) remains the optimum solution to meet the UK's JCA requirement. The carriers will also be able to operate GR9 Harriers.
To maximize the flexibility that CVF can offer over its service life, the carriers will be built to an adaptable design. Though they will be built with a ramp and associated equipment to operate the STOVL F35 aircraft, they are, essentially, a Carrier Variant (CV) aircraft based design. If required, post-JSF, the design means that they are able to be modified (in refit) to operate aircraft requiring a catapult launch and arrested recovery.