It’s vital that carrier saga doesn’t leave us vulnerable

Stephen Morgan MP

Portsmouth South MP Stephen Morgan: Hectic start, but election is just the beginning

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There are many people who think that the government got rid of HMS Ark Royal with an almost indecent haste.

Now a former head of the Fleet Air Arm has put forward the case for suggesting that the speedy way in which the navy’s Harrier jump jets were sold might also have been a mistake.

Anyone following the saga of the Royal Navy’s new aircraft carriers over the past few years will understand exactly where Commodore Steve Jermy is coming from.

It was bad enough when we discovered that the UK must already wait until 2020 for the first of the new Elizabeth-class carriers to be ready.

Now we could be without jets until 2025 if the government can’t get a handle on the current situation.

Getting rid of the Harriers while there was still any uncertainty over the programme to build the new F-35 jets could prove to be a very costly and dangerous mistake.

While it’s true that aircraft can be launched efficiently from air bases around the world, nothing can compare to the power and might of being able to launch on the move, from the sea.

Of course that fact must have already occurred to the Ministry of Defence, or why else go to the trouble and expense of building two new aircraft carriers in the first place?

We can’t always rely on our allies and the navy deserves to be kitted out with all the correct tools for the very valuable and important job that it does in protecting our interests both at home and abroad.

Yet through no fault of its own, our navy is in danger of being made a laughing stock if the decision-makers can’t sort this out now.

The idea that we might have got rid of our Harriers in the 2010 Defence Review, only to find that the decision needs to be reversed just a mere two years later, is ludicrous.

After so many ups and downs, it’s vital that the MoD is open about the review it’s carrying out over the F-35 project.

And the government must sort this out once and for all.

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