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Old 07-03-2008, 09:21 AM
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Thumbs up 3.2bn giant carrier deals signed

The Ministry of Defence has signed contracts worth 3.2bn to build the UK's biggest ever aircraft carriers.

The 280-metre-long HMS Queen Elizabeth and HMS Prince of Wales will be capable of carrying up to 40 aircraft.

The contracts will create or secure 3,000 jobs at Govan, in Glasgow, 1,600 at Rosyth, in Fife, 1,200 in Portsmouth and 400 in Barrow in Furness.

The defence secretary said the vessels were needed to launch military strikes and humanitarian operations.

Peace-keeping role

HMS Queen Elizabeth will come into service in 2014 and HMS Prince of Wales in 2016. The total cost of both vessels, including additional features like electronics, will be almost 4bn.

Each ship will be a similar size to the ocean liner, the QE2, with a flight deck the size of three football pitches.

This will make them more than three times the size of the existing Invincible-class carriers.

The two aircraft carriers will provide our forces with the world-class capabilities they will need over the coming decades," he said.

"They will support peace-keeping and conflict prevention, as well as our strategic operational priorities."

Speaking in Govan, Mr Browne said the carriers would provide "very large floating bases for the Navy and the RAF", entirely under "sovereign control".

"They will allow us to project force," he said. "But they will also allow us to make a contribution to the protection of the sea lanes of the world, because as a trading nation we rely on those being secure."

'Bigger punch'

Although both will eventually carry the new Joint Strike Fighter aircraft, those will not be ready on time for when the ships enter service.

This means that at first, the ships will carry the ageing Harrier aircraft instead.
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