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The BBC's Paul Adams
"The new carriers and planes are expected to be in service by 2012"
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Friday, 22 June, 2001, 12:15 GMT 13:15 UK
Hoon to confirm 'supercarrier'
Carrier design
By BBC Defence Correspondent Paul Adams

Defence Secretary Geoff Hoon is expected to reaffirm the government's commitment to building two giant aircraft carriers and a host of new planes.

The 10bn order will include two "supercarriers" which will be more than twice the size of anything the Navy has ever put to sea.

They would replace the three existing carriers - Illustrious, Invincible and Ark Royal - by 2012.

Each of the new carriers would be able to carry 50 planes on board.

During the election campaign, a number of sceptical Tory MPs and some former military officials suggested the entire project, first proposed in 1998, would be cut.

But Mr Hoon, addressing MPs in the Commons on Friday, is expected to reaffirm the government's commitment to a number of key defence programmes, including a plan to build 30 warships in the next 15 to 20 years.

Centrepiece

The centrepiece of this ambitious scheme will be the two vast aircraft carriers

The planes on board the ships will be the revolutionary American-designed Joint Strike Fighter, a replacement for the ageing Sea Harrier.

Britain is to put 2.7bn towards the total 10bn cost.
Geoff Hoon
Hoon will unveil the plans in the Commons

Earlier in the week, Mr Hoon reaffirmed the government's commitment to another costly programme - the supply of 25 military transport planes being built by Airbus.

But a degree of doubt still overshadows the latest project.

The future of the carriers is critically linked to that of the Joint Strike Fighter, which is potentially threatened by the Bush administration's current defence review.

If the US fighter project is axed, it will leave the Royal Navy's new carriers with not much to carry.

It is not clear where the new supercarriers will be built but several British yards would be likely to tender for the work.

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See also:

19 Jun 01 | Business
Airbus pulls ahead on orders
10 Nov 99 | UK
Navy 'facing warship gap'
25 Jan 99 | UK Politics
'Super' carriers to replace Invincible
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