The Ministry of Defence (MoD) and the Treasury will agree to finance equipment
projects worth more than £30 billion this week, as the Government wraps up
negotiations on the military’s budget, The Times has learnt.
Defence chiefs expect to conclude their department’s comprehensive spending
review this week, Armed Forces’ pay the only outstanding issue to be
Completion of the MoD’s budget will trigger an announcement by Gordon Brown,
the Prime Minister, confirming that the Royal Navy will build two aircraft
carriers worth £3.8 billion.
Government sources said that Downing Street was pushing to make the carrier
announcement by the end of this week, which in turn would allow BAE Systems
and VT Group to complete the merger of their shipbuilding assets.
This would create a £1 billion company, expected to be led by Sir John Parker,
the chairman of National Grid Transco, with docks in Portsmouth and on the
River Clyde in Glasgow. It would be 55 per cent owned by BAE, with VT
holding the rest.
The defence budget also contains provision for six Royal Navy destroyers worth
£3.6 billion. BAE and VT, which are building the destroyers, have launched
two of the ships already and began work on the remaining four without a
fixed contract. However, a proposal to build a further two of the Type 45
destroyers has been axed from the MoD budget.
In addition, the head of the Army has won a pledge from ministers to provide a
new generation of armoured vehicles to give better protection for troops in
overseas war zones, developing a family of “battlefield taxis” capable of
surviving roadside bombs. Whitehall sources had indicated that there would
have to be cuts in the MoD equipment programme and the Army’s plans for new
armoured vehicles, the Future Rapid Effect System (FRES), appeared to be in
doubt. However, sources said that Baron Drayson of Kensington, the Defence
Equipment Minister, is now “totally aligned” with General Sir Richard
Dannatt, the Chief of the General Staff, over the need for the new armoured
vehicles. He has stated that the proposed in-service date of 2012 for the
first batch is “non-negotiable”.
The Army’s FRES system is intended to replace many present armoured vehicles,
such as Saxon, which have been in service for decades and no longer protect
soldiers in Iraq and Afghanistan from sophisticated improvised explosive
devices. The dangers are so great, particularly from Iranian-supplied
“explosively formed projectiles” that hurl copper slugs at up to 5km per
second, that the MoD has had to spend £500 million on interim measures in
order to beef up armoured protection in Iraq and Afghanistan.
With FRES apparently saved from future defence equipment cuts, BAE Systems and
its rival companies in the United States are competing for the huge contract
that could be worth
LONDON: Britain plans to build two aircraft
carriers in the next decade at a cost of 3.9 billion pounds (€5.8
billion US$8 billion), the Ministry of Defense announced Wednesday.
The carriers, to be named HMS Queen Elizabeth and HMS Prince of
Wales, will weigh 65,000 tons each, nearly three times the size of the
carriers now in the fleet, the ministry said.
The ships are due to enter service in 2014 and 2016, the ministry
said, and all of the major work will be done in British shipyards.
The new carriers, designed for at least 40 years of service, will
replace three carriers: HMS Invincible, launched in 1977, HMS
Illustrious (1978), and HMS Ark Royal (1981).
"The carriers represent a step change in our capability, enabling us
to deliver increased strategic effect and influence around the world at
a time and place of our choosing," Defense Secretary Des Browne told
the House of Commons.
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