Aircraft carrier bill will almost double

A CGI image of how the flight deck of HMS Queen Elizabeth will look when she is in operation
A CGI image of how the flight deck of HMS Queen Elizabeth will look when she is in operation

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The price tag for the Royal Navy’s two new aircraft carriers is expected to be almost double its original cost, the government is expected to announce this week.

Defence secretary Philip Hammond is expected to confirm the projected cost of the two carriers, which will not enter service until the end of the decade, has risen by another £800m to £6.2bn.

The latest increase means the bill for the 65,000-tonne ships, which will both be based in Portsmouth, will be almost double the £3.5bn estimated when the programme was agreed by the last Labour government in 2007.

Mr Hammond is expected to attempt to deflect concerns about the rising costs by announcing he has renegotiated the project to build the carriers on terms more favourable to the taxpayer.

The Financial Times said he is expected to say that further cost overruns beyond the new £6.2 billion baseline will be split 50-50 between the Ministry of Defence and the contractors – whereas previously they had fallen mainly on the government.

A spokesman for the Ministry of Defence said: ‘Negotiations between the Ministry of Defence and the Aircraft Carrier Alliance regarding the re-baselining of the Queen Elizabeth Carrier Programme are at an advanced stage.

‘No final decisions have been taken and the department will make an announcement in due course.’

The cost increase is the latest setback for the troubled carrier programme.

The coalition announced in the 2010 Strategic Defence and Security Review that it intended to switch from the jump-jet version of the US-built Joint Strike Fighter planned under Labour to the more capable carrier variant.

However, it was forced to carry out a U-turn after it emerged the cost of fitting the necessary catapults and arrestor gear would be prohibitively expensive.

As reported in The News, the government has previously been criticised by the Public Accounts Committee over the spiralling costs of the ships.