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U.K. Reversals Over Aircraft Carriers Cost at Least $115 Million

Two reversals by U.K. ministers over what type of aircraft to fly off the aircraft carriers they’re building will cost at least 74 million pounds ($115 million), a panel of lawmakers said.

Prime Minister David Cameron’s government inherited plans to fly a jump-jet variant of Lockheed Martin Corp.’s F-35 Joint Strike Fighter, known as the F-35B, from the two carriers currently under construction. In October 2010, it said it would switch to the F-35C, launched with a catapult and arrester-wire system. In May 2012, the government went back on that plan, reverting to the jump-jets.

Parliament’s Public Accounts Committee said today the 2010 decision was taken on the basis of “deeply flawed and immature information.” It questioned in a report published in London whether staff at the Ministry of Defence had the necessary skills to manage the carrier project and asked the National Audit Office to investigate.

“When this program got the green light in 2007, we were supposed to get two aircraft carriers, available from 2016 and 2018, at a cost to the taxpayer of 3.65 billion pounds,” the committee chairwoman, Margaret Hodge from the opposition Labour Party, said in an e-mailed statement. “We are now on course to spend 5.5 billion pounds and have no aircraft-carrier capability for nearly a decade.”

The short-takeoff, vertical-landing F-35Bs have also been chosen by the U.S. Marine Corps.

The U.K. is one of the U.S.’s eight partners on the $382 billion JSF program, the Pentagon’s most expensive. The others are Australia, Turkey, Italy, the Netherlands, Canada, Denmark and Norway.

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