It has been awfully quiet for an awfully long time - so long that we’ve been wondering whether they cancelled the new aircraft carrier programme but forgot to tell anyone. The last we heard was in June when Robert Fox of the Evening Standard was suggesting that, at the very least, Gordon Brown might postpone the project.
Anyhow, The Telegraph weighs in with a bit of information today (business section), telling us that final clearance to build the ships – due in October - risks slipping further behind schedule.
It seems the project is snagged over disagreements between industry and the MoD over rising costs. The two sides, according to the Telegraph, are to meet tomorrow to try to resolve their financial differences after the consortium building the carriers said the price would be around £300m above MoD expectations, which have themselves risen from to £3.5bn, up from an initial estimate of between £2.8bn-£3bn.
However, the consortium now says the carriers cannot be built for less than £3.8bn, but has agreed to work on an incentive scheme that the MoD hopes could reduce the cost to £3.6bn. The consortium partners would share any cost saving.
Now for the really interesting bit. In the print version of the newspaper, there is no photograph. But in the online version (link above), we see an artist's impression – the topmost of the two pictures shown here. Unlike the official MoD version below it – showing a ski-ramp and the STOVL Joint Strike Fighter – we see a conventional carrier with what look suspiciously like F-18s on deck (to say nothing of the E-2 Hawkeye - I wish), duly captioned: "A design for the next generation of Royal Navy aircraft carriers."
Does the Telegraph know something we don't, or is it simply that idiot web editor Shane Richmond getting it wrong (again)?