A French Navy Rafale - which may be the air power of
the Royal Navy in years to come Photo: AFP/GETTY
The Royal Navy won't be flying Anglo-US Joint Strike Fighters, but providing a platform for French Rafales as part of an EU force, writes Christopher Booker.
Apr 2011 By Christopher Booker THE TELEGRAPH
The magnificent military pageantry of the royal wedding coincided, sadly, with yet another humiliating instance of the precipitate decline in Britain’s military power. There has long been something very odd about the two giant aircraft carriers which are to be the centrepiece of Britain’s defence capability over the next 50 years – one to be instantly mothballed, the other not due in service for another decade. Now, it seems, the bill for this project is to rise yet again, by further billions of pounds, because, according to the Ministry of Defence, one carrier needs extensive modification to accommodate the Joint Strike Fighters we are allegedly building with the US.
When are the MoD and our politicians going to tell us the truth about these ships – which has been hidden in plain view for years? The purpose of these latest changes is not to accommodate Anglo-US JSFs, which may never be built, but – as I first reported as long ago as 2006 – to equip the carriers to fly French-built Rafales.
Ever since 1996, under the last Tory government, these carriers have been planned as a joint Anglo-French project. Their only purpose has been to serve as the main Anglo-French contribution to the European Rapid Reaction Force, as agreed by Tony Blair at Helsinki in 1999, and confirmed between the lines in several treaties since, including the latest, signed by David Cameron and President Sarkozy last November.
This is where the 600-year history of the Royal Navy is to end – sailing partly French-built ships, crewed by British sailors, as a platform for inadequate French aircraft with French pilots (and with escorts provided by other EU nations such as Spain). But why are our politicians so reluctant to admit what they are up to, and trying to pretend that we shall somehow still have an independent Royal Navy, equipped with aircraft at least partly British? That is not what they are spending vast sums of our money to achieve, and it is time they came clean about it.