Carrier Bid Could Help Scottish Shipbuilding
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Carrier Bid Could Help Scottish Shipbuilding


Carrier Bid Could Help Scottish Shipbuilding

If the consortium of BAE Systems, Babcock BES, Swan Hunter and Vosper Thornycroft wins the government's multi-billion pound Future Carrier tender in a few weeks' time it will be a significant boost for Scotland, with a large proportion of the work secured for Scotstoun and Govan on the River Clyde and at Rosyth on the Forth. The Ministry of Defence's specification says the carriers must be capable of handling STOVL (short take-off vertical landing, suitable for the current Sea Harrier jump jet) but also conventional landing (preferred by the US Navy).

The consortium is bidding against French defence contractor Thales, which said that it would build the ships in the UK and that all the design and intellectual property rights would reside in Britain. Both bidders have already announced that the carriers will be built in three megablocks -- forward, mid and aft. While BAE Systems' carrier will be assembled at Rosyth, Thales is planning to use a subsidiary of US offshore firm Halliburton, Kellogg Brown & Root in Nigg. The former oil fabrication yard is being considered as a final assembly site.

Whatever the outcome, these ships will be the linchpin of Britain's future naval capabilities and maximum flexibility is absolutely crucial. With this project looking ahead for the next 50 years, nobody can be sure what form future aircraft carriers will take. It is anticipated that there will be an increasing use of unmanned drone planes, while more automated munitions system for loading missiles and bombs would cut the number of personnel needed on board. At nearly 60,000 tonnes, a Future Carrier will be the biggest battleship ever built in the UK. The two carriers will not be nuclear-powered, like larger American carriers, and will be ready for service between 2012-2015.

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