Defence cuts: French and US jets to use British Navy aircraft carriers

The flagship of Britain

From Andy Bloxham and James Kirkup, the Telegraph:  French and American fighter jets will use British Navy aircraft carriers as budget cutbacks trim the Armed Forces, the Defence Secretary Liam Fox has suggested.

Dr Fox said it was important to have "maximum flexibility" and said American or French aircraft would offer "a new capability".

Under the Strategic Defence and Security Review, the Navy will bear the brunt of the cuts: it will lose five warships and 4,000 personnel; Harrier jump-jets will be scrapped; and its flagship aircraft carrier, HMS Ark Royal, will immediately be retired.

The first of two new carriers will enter service in 2016, but will only be configured to carry helicopters – not jets – before being mothballed indefinitely, or sold once the second carrier enters service.

However, even when the second carrier arrives, the only aircraft likely to be able to use it will be American or French, with a new Joint Strike Fighter plane not due in service until 2020.

This means the Navy will not have British jets flying from its aircraft carriers for around 10 years and foreign pilots flying foreign aircraft will be vital to protecting Britain. But even they will probably not be able to fly off a British aircraft carrier until 2016 at the earliest.  (photo: Reuters)

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