Select Committee on Defence Written Evidence


Further Memorandum from the Ministry of Defence

FUTURE CARRIER AND JOINT COMBAT AIRCRAFT PROGRAMMES

  1.  Carrier Strike is an expeditionary air power capability that will be able to operate in uncertain access, basing and overflight conditions as part of a joint force: the fast jet element should be capable of delivering the full range of effects from both the land and sea base. At its core are the Joint Combat Aircraft (JCA), Future Aircraft Carriers (CVF) and Maritime Airborne Surveillance and Control (MASC), along with expeditionary campaign infrastructure for operations from deployed operating bases. Other enabling capabilities eg Military Afloat Reach and Sustainability (MARS) and Future Strategic Tanker Aircraft (FSTA), will contribute to the success of all components within a joint campaign.

WHOLE LIFE COSTS

  2.  CVF, JCA and MASC are at different stages in their acquisition cycle. All three projects have yet to proceed to Main Gate[10] and consequently, work is continuing to develop our understanding of the acquisition and support costs. Such costs will be an integral part of the Main Gate business cases for the individual projects and will need to be sufficiently mature in order to inform the main investment decision(s).

  3.  Against this background of maturing cost data, the current estimate of whole life costs for the core projects of the Carrier Strike capability is approximately £31bn, including some £12 bn acquisition costs.

OTHER OPTIONS

  4.  Ahead of the decision in favour of the Joint Strike Fighter (JSF) in 2001, studies were conducted into options to meet the then Future Carrier Borne Aircraft (FCBA) requirement. Other options considered were the US F/A-18E, French Rafale M, "navalised" Eurofighter and an advanced Harrier, but these were all rejected on cost-effectiveness grounds. In September 2002, the UK announced its selection of the Short Take Off and Vertical Landing (STOVL) variant of JSF.

  5.  While we are not re-considering the decision to procure JSF, normal programme management disciplines mean we continue to assess the ability of STOVL variant to meet the JCA requirement.

NON-CARRIER BASED OPTIONS

  6.  The overall capability requirement was set out in the 1998 Strategic Defence Review and its supporting papers. These concluded that "the ability to deploy offensive air power will be central to future force projection operations". It also concluded that "we cannot be certain that we will always have access to suitable air bases" and that "even when we do, experience has shown that bases may not always be available in the early stages of a crisis, and that their infrastructure is not always able to support the full range of operations required". It was judged at the time that a solution based on aircraft carriers would "provide valuable flexibility" and "offer a coercive presence". We have to date only considered a carrier based solution given the overall requirement outlined in the Strategic Defence Review.

September 2005



10   In order to match the US procurement cycle, JCA has been through a tailored Main Gate for Development only. Back


 
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Prepared 21 December 2005