Cameron makes £100m U-turn on F-35 aircraft carrier jets

Humiliating turnaround for Cameron as Ministry of Defence reverts to Labour’s original plan

LAST UPDATED AT 15:00 ON Thu 10 May 2012

THE GOVERNMENT'S decision to change the type of fighter planes it is ordering for the Royal Navy's new aircraft carrier will cost about £100m, the defence secretary Philip Hammond has said. 

As predicted by Robert Fox, writing for The Week two days ago, David Cameron has signed off a decision to use the jump-jet variant of the US-built F-35B Joint Strike Fighter, which was the previous Labour government's original plan. The coalition said in 2010 it wanted to switch to a variant using "catapults and traps" - the F35-C - but costs are believed to have spiralled.

Hammond announced the U-turn in the House of Commons today, saying the cost of installing catapults and traps had escalated significantly, from £1bn to £2bn, making the F35-C unaffordable, and that if F-35Bs are used, the MoD will get its carrier by 2018 - two years earlier than planned. He later told the BBC that the cost of the U-turn would be in the region of £100m.

Hammond had hoped to persuade Downing Street to make the move at the end of March, so the MoD could finalise its budget before the new financial year, reports The Financial Times, but Cameron is understood to have blocked the move, insisting the Treasury undertake a new analysis of the costs, while the MoD was told to check its own calculations again.

The Guardian writes that Cameron pushed the military to ditch the F35-B, and both he and Nick Clegg pushed for the F-35C, which has longer range and can carry more weapons.

Speaking to the Commons in October 2010 to explain his preference for the F-35C, Cameron said: "This is another area where I believe the last government got it badly wrong. The carriers they ordered were unable to work effectively with our key defence partners, the United States or France."

Following the announcement today, Labour immediately demanded that the PM apologise for his "incompetence". Shadow defence secretary Jim Murphy said: "The prime minister's decisions have cost British time, British money, British talent and British prestige. Describing this government's defence strategy as an omnishambles would be a compliment.

"The previous Labour government got it right and this government's policy has unravelled." · 

Disqus - noscript

Why is a change of mind, due to differing circumstances from when the original decision was made, called a U-turn?  Furthermore, why is a U-turn, or change of mind, a bad thing?

If more Governments had the cohonies to re-assess and make a different decision every now and then, we'd all be the better for it.

If the government were serious about carrier based alternatives they should have considered the F18 which would have been a fraction of the price. As it is we have got the worse of both worlds.

I would love to be a fly on the wall when our Dave meets with the top brass of the RAF. It was reported that it was they who signed the death warrant of the Fleet Air Arms Harriers and the axeing of Ark Royal, which incidentally had not long previously had a £40m refit, so that they could keep their precious but outdated Tornado fleet. (Just think back to Libya when we were sending hundreds of RAF personnel to live in Italy and all the cost of air to air re-fuelling).The RAF would also no doubt be pleased to hear that the Navy won't be getting F35C's, as probably will Bae so that they can get very expensive upgrade work on the Tornado and Typhoon. Cynical or what?

The ConDems changing the order TWICE has wasted £100,000,000.    In the interest of short term book balancing Prime Minister Cameron, who was heavily critical of Labour for ordering the F35B, has now ordered the same aircraft. 
The new carriers will cost less but each F35B costs $20 million more than the F35C, will be 25% more expensive to maintain over a potential 50 year life span and has less capability. 
The original decision to purchase the F35B was flawed, opting for the more capable F35C made sense, changing back again doesn't.
To suggest this decision making merry-go-round is a positive display of gonads may be correct, but the nads in question appear to be between the ears of our elected decision makers.

1. it is a u-turn whether it is justifiable or not.
2. Situation changes every year, even everyday.If you change you decision in the same manner will actually course confusion that could lead to more new problem. Yes, you may have solve some problem but does it worth it.
3. The changed situation explanation is not totally convincing. Rather one would felt the original cost estimate of refitting the carrier was simply sloppy. 

£100 million eh? Should easily claw that back by cutting disabled benefits! If not, see if we can freeze a few old people to death next winter. The ConDems are pretty inventive at screwing the people out of money. How about a living tax? If you are alive pay a tax on that? No they got that one disguised as income tax. How about if you die? Nope they got that one covered too. Baby tax? I know, 'Old age tax' and 'Illness tax'. How about poorly paid tax on top of income tax? That'll sort those crafty boogers out that don't pay much Income tax by not working in better paid jobs! Boy! do I sound bitter and almost twisted.

For further concise, balanced comment and analysis on the week's news, try The Week magazine. Subscribe today and get 6 issues completely free.