|MoD may sell aircraft carrier to India to limit cutsSale would leave Royal Navy with just one replacement
The Observer, Sunday 15 November 2009
One of Britain's new £2bn aircraft carriers could be sold off under cost-cutting plans being considered by the Ministry of Defence. India has lodged a firm expression of interest, the Observer has learned.
The sale of one of the two 65,000-tonne vessels would leave the Royal Navy with a single carrier and could force Britain to borrow from the French fleet, which itself has only one carrier and is reluctant to build more. Last summer the French president, Nicolas Sarkozy, proposed to Gordon Brown that the two navies co-ordinate maintenance and refitting so that one was at sea at all times.
According to senior defence sources, Whitehall officials are examining the feasibility of a sale as part of the strategic defence review that will start early next year and is expected to result in savage cuts.
The carrier programme has already been delayed by two years to push back spending commitments, which itself will end up costing the taxpayer more in the long run. BAE Systems began work in July on HMS Queen Elizabeth, which is due to come into service in 2016. Preparatory work on the Prince of Wales, due for launch in 2018, has also started. The two carriers will replace the ageing Invincible class and are three times the size.
There were fears that the government could scrap one altogether. But it is understood that the financial penalties would be prohibitive. About 10,000 jobs in Portsmouth, Barrow-in-Furness, Fife and Glasgow depend on the orders.