UK's Future Aircraft Carrier project moves to next phase.

Future Aircraft Carrier project moves to next phase as assembly plans are agreed
Published Wednesday 14th December 2005

Defence Secretary John Reid has announced a series of major developments in MoD's multi-billion pound programme to build a new class of aircraft carrier for Britain's Armed Forces today, 14 December 2005.

The key developments - which together will provide our Forces with the largest and most powerful warships ever constructed in the UK - include:

The current carrier Alliance team of MoD, BAE Systems, Thales and KBR, is to be joined by VT Group and Babcock.

Plans for the construction and assembly of the ships at Alliance members' yards have been agreed.

MoD is to spend some 300M to develop the design of the ships to the point at which manufacturing can begin.

Commitment to some long-lead items for the ships will be made, where necessary, to maintain the programme.

It is also planned to explore, with the same companies, encompassing in-service support for the new carriers and the existing carriers through to their out of service dates.

Mr Reid said:

"These are major steps forward for the future carrier project. Work will now commence on finalising the delta design, which will ultimately provide the UK Armed Forces with the largest and most powerful warships ever constructed in the UK, and an expeditionary capability unparalleled outside of the US.

"As part of today's announcement, I am allocating some 60% of the ships' construction to named UK yards: BAE Systems at Govan and Barrow; VT in Portsmouth and Babcock in Rosyth. I can also confirm final assembly of both carriers will be at Rosyth.

"At the same time there is a substantial opportunity for the involvement of other UK shipyards in the remaining parts of the build programme that will be open to competition. This could go well beyond traditional shipbuilders since the project will use modern modular production techniques.

"We will now work with industry to finalise the programme budget; to set a construction timetable and establish in-service dates; to ratify how the ships will be supported through a service life of up to 50 years; and to ensure that our detailed requirements are met. Together with the parallel design work, this means that when we come to commit to the manufacture of the project we can do so with the highest degree of confidence and certainty in our plans.

"Alongside this, I am announcing our intention of asking the alliance to put forward one integrated plan: not only to maintain the new carriers but to look after the existing carriers until they go out of service. By getting the same people to commit to maintain the existing carriers until the new ones are ready to go we will ensure there is a continuity of capability for the Royal Navy.

"This project is a key to the Defence Industrial Strategy and marks the end to the 'boom and bust' industrial cycle. The introduction of a managed and steady work stream will allow industry to plan efficiently and to retain the highly skilled workforce that has contributed to the fine tradition of shipbuilding in this country. In addition, this project will sustain and create some 10,000 UK jobs around the country."

For the Future Aircraft Carrier project (also known as the "Carrier, Vehicular, Future" or CVF project) the "Main Gate" approval - a stage of the MOD's procurement process which must be fulfilled before projects can move to manufacture - has been split into two incremental steps. Today's announcement marks the movement of the project through the first step, from the MOD's assessment phase into the demonstration phase. This next phase of design work will further remove risk from the project and give greater understanding of projected costs, allowing Ministry of Defence to make its main investment decision in confidence. At that time, the MOD will be able to announce the expected programme costs and "in-service" dates for the new ships.

From a range of proposed designs for the new carriers, the adaptable design labelled "Design Delta" has been selected. When the ships are built, they will be fitted with a ski-jump to operate short take-off and vertical-landing (STOVL) aircraft. However, the design can be altered later in the ships' service life, for example to accommodate catapults and arrestor gear to fly conventional carrier aircraft. This is future-proofing for a class of ship expected to have a 50-year life.

The new class of carriers will be much larger than the Royal Navy's existing "Invincible" class carriers. It is currently estimated that the new class will have a displacement (weight) of 65,000 tonnes, will be 280m long and 70m wide, and have a draught (the depth of water needed to float the ship) of 9m. The ships' complement will be around 1500 all-told, including the Joint Force Air Group (JFAG) who will support and fly the embarked aircraft. Each ship will carry about 40 aircraft (Joint Combat Aircraft, Maritime Airborne Surveillance and Control system, and Merlin helicopters).

Plans for the construction and assembly of the ships in yards owned by members of the new expanded Alliance include hull block 4 at BAES Govan, block 3 at BAES Barrow, block 2 at VT Group Portsmouth, and the bow (block 1) and final assembly at Babcock Rosyth, all subject to value-for-money and cost-effectiveness considerations. This work is some 60% of the overall build. Substantial elements of the remainder of the ship super-structure are to be competed for by other shipyards and manufacturing facilities.


New aircraft carriers wll overtake Charles de Gaulle as Europe's largest warships.
I wish Paul Martin would buy us two of those.
Wow! these will surely come in handy when the next Spanish Armada strikes your coasts. It's a pity there is no present day Drake to captain them tho.
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