By Max Clarke

Considerable savings delivered to the UK’s aircraft carrier project have come at a cost of considerable technical and strategic uncertainty.

This is the conclusion of a report into the current Strategic Defence and Security Review, carried out by government costcutting body, the National Audit Office.

The Office expressed their ‘deep concern’ about efforts to strip some £3.4 billion from the cost of the project that will result in a reduced number of sorties and a maximum of as little at 150 days at sea each year.

"The 2010 Strategic Defence and Security Review has radically changed the Carrier Strike concept,” Michael Whitehouse, Chief Operating Officer of the National Audit Office. “It generated £3.4 billion of savings but introduced significant levels of operational, technical, cost and schedule uncertainty.”

The NAO also voiced their doubts about the decision to retire the Harrier and Invincible-class aircraft carriers nearly a full decade before the controversial Queen Elizabeth class carriers are scheduled for completion

The NAO identified two principal risks to value for money on Carrier Strike: firstly, the reviev is unaffordable unless there is a real terms increase in defence funding from 2015 onwards. The National Audit Office is worried that the continuing difficulties the Ministry of Defence is facing in balancing its budget leaves Carrier Strike vulnerable to further change.

“It will take two years for the Department to reach a mature understanding of the consequences of the decision,” continued Whitehouse. “These consequences include a decade without an operational carrier and the risks after such a time associated with reconstituting the capability.”

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