Tuesday, September 21, 2010

UK had offered one of Carrier Vessels Future (CVF) to New Delhi

Ajai Shukla

A cash-strapped UK defence ministry, unable to pay for the two aircraft carriers on order with BAE Systems, had offered one of them to New Delhi. In the circumstances, a few news reports in India on “high-quality British shipbuilding” could only be useful.Amongst the several multi-billion pound programmes that seem certain to be pared is the Carrier Vessels Future (CVF) programme: the £5 billion ($8 billion) construction, mainly in British shipyards, of two 65,000-tonne aircraft carriers called the HMS Queen Elizabeth and the HMS Prince of Wales.

Given that the Indian Navy already has four aircraft carriers in the pipeline — the lame but functional INS Viraat; the infamous Gorshkov (renamed INS Vikramaditya), being constructed in Russia; a third (so far unnamed) carrier being built in Cochin Shipyard; and another to follow that — Britain’s offer of yet another carrier might be considered wildly optimistic. But desperate times demand desperate measures and the UK is conducting its greatest strategic downsizing since the 1968 retreat from the Suez. David Cameron’s new government has initiated a strategic defence and security review (SDSR), which involves defence spending cuts of 20-30 per cent to bring down military expenditure to below 2 per cent of GDP.

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