UK & World News
MoD Attacked For 'Flawed' Jet Decision
The Ministry of Defence has been strongly criticised for its "flawed" decision to buy a different version of the new F-35 fighter aircraft for the Royal Navy's new carriers.
The F-35 has three main models. The F-35A is a conventional take-off and landing variant, the F-35B is a short take-off and vertical-landing variant, and the F-35C is a carrier-based variant.
The Commons defence committee attacked the move to adopt the jump jet version of the F-35 instead of the carrier take-off variant.
At the time, ministers said the F-35C would be more capable and increase compatibility with other navies - even though it would mean mothballing one of the two carriers to save money.
But last May, the MoD went into reverse and returned to the F-35B jump jet version due to fears the cost of fitting carrier landing equipment was spiralling out of control.
The defence committee said the original decision was a mistake that had led to higher costs and further delays to the carrier programme.
"It is clear that the decision was rushed and based upon incomplete and inaccurate policy development. It was taken without the MoD understanding how the change could be implemented," the committee said.
"Perhaps the primary example of how little the MoD understood about this decision is the fact that it was supposed to improve interoperability. This turned out to be incorrect.
"We urge the MoD to learn the lessons of this closed, rushed and flawed decision of 2010."
The report also complained that the lack of a proper defence industrial strategy put the UK at a disadvantage compared with competitor countries.
Defence equipment minister Philip Dunne said the MoD's newly published 10-year equipment plan would ensure the armed forces get the hardware they need in the years ahead.
"The increased financial contingency will help cover future risk and make our equipment programme affordable," he said.
"There is also greater information for industry about our priorities, helping them to invest in the future capabilities our troops need," he said.
Mr Dunne insisted that the switch to the F-35B version of the US-built jet had been "right at the time".
"Unacceptable cost growth, technical risk and project delays" meant the decision to revert to the jump jet was "in the best interest of defence," he argued.
Shadow defence secretary Jim Murphy said: "This is another blow to the country's confidence in the Government's competence on defence.
"Days after confusion and contradiction on defence spending, the chaos of the aircraft carrier decision is laid bare.
"This wasted time and money led to a serious capability gap and exposed lacking knowledge of defence procurement.
"The UK has paid at least an extra £100m to have no aircraft to fly from an aircraft carrier for years."