UK Gives Go-ahead for Big New Aircraft Carriers
After years of preliminary definition and assessment, the UK Ministry of Defence gave the go-ahead for construction of two 65,000-tonne aircraft carriers. They will enter service in 2014 and 2016, and will be able to carry up to 40 aircraft, including F- 35 Joint Strike Fighters, AEW aircraft and helicopters. Contracts worth nearly $8 billion for the two ships will be placed with a carefully crafted industrial consortium led by BAE Systems, and also including Thales and the VT Group. During the assessment phase, the British Future Carrier program enjoyed some technical and design input from France, which has plans to build a second aircraft carrier of its own. But the new French government may defer or even eliminate the second carrier. Nevertheless, British Defence Secretary Des Browne said that further co-operation with France was likely, including joint procurement of equipment for the carriers, and shared support.