Government is poised to sell Royal Navy’s axed Harrier jump jets to US Marines

A soldier with the 4th Mechanised Brigade is pictured engaging the enemy during Operation Qalb in Helmand, Afghanistan. PPP-151019-121639001

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TALKS are being held to sell all of the Royal Navy’s axed Harrier jump jets to the US Marine Corps, the Ministry of Defence has confirmed.

The US government is finalising a deal that will see it purchase all 74 of the UK’s decommissioned Harriers and their spare parts.

Reports suggest the deal is likely to be completed in the next two weeks.

An MoD spokesman said: ‘We are currently negotiating the sale of Harrier assets to the US government. It would therefore be inappropriate to comment on the future of the Harrier fleet at this time.’

The Harrier jump jets were scrapped along with the aircraft carrier HMS Ark Royal in last year’s Strategic Defence and Security Review – leaving the navy unable to launch fast jets at sea until the first of the new Queen Elizabeth class aircraft carriers comes into service in 2020.

The US Marine Corps currently operates around 120 Harrier aircraft, including training variants, and will most likley use Britain’s old jets for spare parts.

The Harriers were decommissioned in December last year after four decades of military service.

Former First Sea Lords and defence commentators have warned the gap in Britain’s carrier strike capability has left the armed forces weaker.

First Sea Lord Admiral Sir Mark Stanhope admitted last week that Britain could have used a carrier in Libya.

He said: ‘If we had had aircraft carriers we probably would have used them.

‘The government has recognised this, and that is why they are building two new aircraft carriers.’