Although it actually wanted a different variant, the Government has finally decided what type of F-35 Joint Strike Fighter it is ordering for use on the Royal Navy's new aircraft carrier.
The Government had wanted to use a variant of the aircraft using ‘catapults and traps’ but costs are believed to have escalated meaning David Cameron has signed off a decision to use the jump-jet variant of the US-built F-35B Joint Strike Fighter, as planned by the previous Labour government.
The Financial Times writes that Philip Hammond, the defence secretary, will announce in the House of Commons later today that the UK is switching back to the original order in what will be seen as an embarrassing U-turn for the Prime Minister.
In the Commons, Hammond will present two arguments to MPs. First, the government has discovered that the cost of installing catapults and traps has escalated significantly, from £1bn to £2bn, making the F35-C unaffordable.
Second, by abandoning plans to build catapults and traps, the MoD will get its carrier capability a good deal earlier. Hammond will argue that with vertical take-off and landing, full carrier strike capability will be achieved by 2018, two years earlier than planned.
Both David Cameron and Nick Clegg had been pushing for the F-35C, which has longer range and can carry more weapons. Speaking to the Commons in October 2010 to explain his preference for the F-35C, Cameron said: “This is another area where I believe the last government got it badly wrong. The carriers they ordered were unable to work effectively with our key defence partners, the United States or France.” ·