UK’s carrier strike capability could be delayed, watchdog warns

Technical issues and manpower shortage could cause delays in the Royal Navy’s plans for the deployment of its carrier strike group, a UK spending watchdog has warned.

The UK ministry of defense plans to have an initial carrier strike operating capability by December 2020, something the UK has been without since the Invincible-class aircraft carrier left service.

These plans could be delayed, the National Audit Office noted saying the technical issues are yet to be resolved.

NAO further said that the program is entering a high risk phase which will be reflected in a tight schedule to achieve the full CEPP capability by 2026 (full CEPP means having both carriers in operation with F35B jets and the Crowsnest radar).

Other risks in this stage are that, up to 2020, the program will undertake many “firsts” while experiencing a shortage of key personnel in engineering roles and war-fighting specialists. This is illustrated by the fact that Royal Navy and Royal Air Force personnel are embarked on U.S. Navy ships for training before first flight trials from future HMS Queen Elizabeth start in 2018.

The NAO has, however, outlined steps the MoD could take to manage the program successfully. These, most notably, include maintaining a realistic view of the aggregate risk and guarding against over-ambition and resisting any pressure to bring operational dates forward.

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