WORK has begun on the second of the Royal Navy’s two new aircraft carriers.
The building of HMS Prince of Wales has been shrouded in controversy after the government announced one carrier will be mothballed on her arrival to Portsmouth at the end of the decade to save cash.
Critics said the second is only being built because it would cost the taxpayer more to cancel the contract.
Last month, it was revealed the cost of the programme may increase by £2bn to £7bn due to design changes.
But defence secretary Liam Fox – who yesterday cut the first steel of the second carrier at BAE Systems’ shipyard in Govan, Glasgow – said: ‘It’s very important to recognise that we are going ahead with the building of the carriers not, as some people have said, because it would be too expensive to cancel them, but because we are absolutely committed to the concept of carrier-enabled capability for the future.
‘We are talking about 50 years’ worth of top end carrier projection for our air power and that gives the UK an enormous range of options when it comes to that.’
Last year’s defence review said that as few as 12 fighter planes may be purchased for use on the aircraft carriers.
Dr Fox said it had not yet been decided what ‘mix of use’ each carrier would have in their 50-year lifetime.
Meanwhile, construction of the first carrier, HMS Queen Elizabeth, continues at pace.
Portsmouth shipbuilders are fitting out a 7,000-tonne section of the mid ship and building the stern.
In July, work will start on the two superstructure islands which control the 65,000-tonne ship from the flight deck.