THE cost to build two new Royal Navy supercarriers is at risk of spiralling, MPs warned the government today.
The Commons Public Accounts Committee said the £6bn project is already well above its original £3.65bn budget and costs could rise further after the government decided to change the type of jet it wants on the new carriers in last year’s Strategic Defence and Security Review.
Instead of jump jet F-35Bs, which take off and land vertically, ministers opted for cheaper catapult-launched F-35Cs.
Talks are being held with the shipbuilders, the Aircraft Carrier Alliance, to add catapults to one of the ships and leave the other without jets.
The committee said the cost of the change will be unknown until December 2012 and warned the project is ‘at risk of cost growth and slippage’.
Chairwoman Margaret Hodge said: ‘Rather than two carriers, available from 2016 and 2018, at a cost of £3.65bn, we will now spend more than £6bn, get one operational carrier and have no aircraft carrier capability until 2020.’
Defence secretary Phillip Hammond said the project was already £1.6bn over budget under the Labour government and the change to F-35C jets will off-set conversion costs in long-term.