The F-35C is propelled off the deck by a catapult, and "trapped" when it lands
25 Mar 2012By Sean Rayment, Defence Correspondent.
A decision on the choice of the Royal Navy's new combat jet has been delayed yet again following disagreements between senior officers and defence ministers.
The Government is poised to perform an about-turn on its choice of plane to fly from two new aircraft carriers that will enter service in 2020.
Senior officers have advised the Prime Minister to axe plans to buy the Joint Strike Fighter F-35C after the cost of converting the carriers to use them rose to £2 billion – on top of the £6.2 billion cost of building the vessels.
The F-35C is propelled off the deck by a catapult, and "trapped" when it lands.
Commanders have formally recommended that the Government buy the F-35B, which operates like a Harrier jump jet, and Philip Hammond, the Defence Secretary, has asked the Prime Minister to "sign off" the proposal.
But the disagreements between commanders and ministers were so protracted that there is no longer enough time left in the parliamentary calendar to make the announcement before Easter.
Instead, MPs will be told later next month. It is the first major change to the controversial Strategic Defence and Security Review, which critics say has been driven by financial, not military, need.
A Whitehall source said: "There will be short-term pain for the Government, but in the long run it is by far the best option. Adapting the carriers is skewing the defence budget out of shape."