Despite the anticipation of tough Treasury sanctions on defence spending, the outcome of the UK’s Strategic Defence and Security Review (SDSR) has been met with widespread consternation. Many consider the prospect of building a large aircraft carrier that will never fly fixed-wing aircraft, along with heavy cuts that target the Royal Navy in particular, to be too much and led more by budgetary constraints than strategic outlook.
Much of the backlash has been directed at a decision to gap the navy’s carrier strike capability with the impromptu withdrawal of HMS Ark Royal and the Harrier force. The loss of both capability and operational experience will span almost a decade until these are restored by the introduction of the second new aircraft carrier and fighter jets in 2020. Ironically, the RN’s last conventional ‘cat and trap’ aircraft carrier was the previous HMS Ark Royal.
The Prime Minister has made no secret of the government’s wish to cancel one of the two ships ordered by the previous administration. The financial penalty of doing so was put at £690 million.