The NAO Report and SDSR. Letter to the Daily Telegraph 9 July 2011
The defence we need:
Sir – The big point about the National Audit Office report on the Strategic Defence and Security Review (report, July 7) is that either the Royal Navy needs carrier air-power or it doesn’t.
Liam Fox, the Defence Secretary, makes much of allies and overflying rights in the Libyan campaign, but seems oblivious to the vital role of carrier air-power in the Falklands, and the absence of allies then.
The decision to modify at least one new super carrier to operate conventional take-off and landing versions of the Joint Strike Fighter takes the MoD, and the taxpayer, into uncharted waters again. The cost-effective way would have been to retain Ark Royal and Illustrious as carriers, with a new build of Sea Harriers, with upgraded engines as in the Harrier GR9.
Legislation could have been passed to allow the Government to cancel the two super carriers without incurring liabilities. These ships are too big for the reported 40 aircraft each is meant to carry, and would be too valuable to risk losing in conflict.
What is needed in the longer term are three (ideally four) carriers of about 30,000 tons, for two Sea Harrier squadrons plus supporting anti-submarine and airborne early-warning helicopters.