Saturday, 24 January 2009

Did John Hutton mislead Parliament

The Times reports that:
"John Hutton has been accused of deceiving Parliament over his explanation for a two-year delay in the Royal Navy’s aircraft carrier programme.

The allegation came after Lockheed Martin, the American defence company, contradicted his account. He had said that the delay was linked to a later delivery date for the aircraft that the vessels will carry.

In a written Commons statement last month, the Defence Secretary said that construction of the 65,000-tonne HMS Queen Elizabeth and her sister ship, HMS Prince of Wales, would be put back a further one or two years in line with the expected delivery of the Joint Strike Fighter, the combat aircraft designed to replace the Harrier. The fighter project has been running behind schedule.

Under the delayed in-service dates announced for the two carriers, HMS Queen Elizabeth, which was to have been ready by 2014, will now be completed by 2015 or 2016, and HMS Prince of Wales will not be in service until 2016 or 2017.

Lockheed Martin, however, confirmed to The Times that it had been ready to provide the combat aircraft by 2014 but had been told by the Ministry of Defence to deliver in time for a 2017 initial operating capability.

The company, which is developing the Joint Strike Fighter in partnership with BAE Systems, said that the aircraft’s assembly line was already running and that other partners in the programme would get their aircraft before Britain.

It emphasised that deliveries to the MoD would start well before 2017 to allow the Royal Navy to build up operational capability before the in-service date. “It’s true that the MoD wanted its JSF initial operating capability for 2017, although we told them we could deliver by 2014,” the company said. "

I presume Newsnight will be investigating this story in great detail; maybe not.

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