In July 2007 the order for these two new giant aircraft carriers was approved at a cost of £3.9bn. The ships will be built in separate blocks in four main yards on the Clyde, Barrow, Portsmouth and Rosyth and will be a joint venture between BAE Systems and VT Group. Admiral Sir Jonathan Band said the announcement confirmed Britain’s status as a ‘major player’ on the world stage and would enable the UK to ‘deliver air power around the world’.
The carriers will each take 40 aircraft, probably the new Joint Strike Fighter which is being built by Lockheed Martin as the F35B. This will be a new long range strike aircraft which uses stealth technology to minimise radar detection and can operate from land bases or aircraft carriers. The MoD has ordered 150 of these in a deal estimated to cost £12bn.
the 10 biggest spending countries in 2006
||World Shares (%)
Source: SIPRI Yearbook 2007
To increase its heavy lift capacity, the government has ordered 25 Airbus A400M at a cost of £2.4bn. These are expected to be in service by 2010 and could carry a brigade to the Gulf in 11 days whereas the current Hercules C130s would take 28 days. These aircraft could carry vehicles, attack helicopters, freight and troops over extended distances. It is likely that the RAF will retain its existing Hercules heavy lift aircraft for the foreseeable future.
All of which makes it crystal clear what the government and the MoD thinks is the role of our armed forces. Attack submarines are no use against people who plant bombs on trains. And you don’t need supersize aircraft carriers, hundreds of long range strike aircraft and new heavy lift and amphibious landing capacity for defending Britain. But you do need them if you intend to fight wars thousands of miles across the globe.
People & Parliament Against Trident Demonstration in Nov 2007
The defence policy statements and the extended programme of defence procurement give the game away. This is the same old British imperial strategy that has characterised UK foreign policy for centuries. But with one exception. It is now no longer an independent foreign policy but one increasingly tailored to meet the interests of the world’s dominant imperial power the- United States.