UK Defence Secretary John Reid announced a series of major developments in MoDís multi-billion pound programme to build a new class of aircraft carrier for the Armed Forces. The current carrier Alliance team of MoD, BAE Systems, Thales and KBR, is to be joined by VT Group and Babcock. Plans for the construction and assembly of the ships at Alliance membersí yards have been agreed. MoD is to spend some £300M to develop the design of the ships to the point at which manufacturing can begin. Commitment to some long-lead items for the ships will be made, where necessary, to maintain the programme.
It is also planned to explore, with the same companies, encompassing in-service support for the new carriers and the existing carriers through to their out of service dates. Mr. Reid said "These are major steps forward for the future carrier project. Work will now commence on finalising the delta design, which will ultimately provide the UK Armed Forces with the largest and most powerful warships ever constructed in the UK, and an expeditionary capability unparalleled outside of the US."
As part of the announcement, some 60% of the shipsí construction was allocated to named UK yards: BAE Systems at Govan and Barrow; VT in Portsmouth and Babcock in Rosyth. The final assembly of both carriers will be at Rosyth. At the same time there is a substantial opportunity for the involvement of other UK shipyards in the remaining parts of the build programme that will be open to competition. This could go well beyond traditional shipbuilders since the project will use modern modular production techniques.