The HMS Ark Royal will be axed “with immediate effect” along with its fleet of Harrier jets, the Prime Minister is expected to confirm later.This could leave the UK without a carrier that can be used by British jets for around 10 years.Two new vessels will be built at a cost of £5.2bn and will be converted to allow allies such as the United States to use them as well.The project was spared the axe because it would cost the taxpayer more to scrap the contract than to see it completed.Even then, Sky News understands, one of the carriers may be ‘mothballed’ and sold within a few years.David Cameron is also expected to say the renewal of the Trident nuclear deterrent will be delayed.Mr Cameron will reveal details of which other parts of Britain’s armed forces are facing the axe in the House of Commons at 3.30pm.The results of the Strategic Defence and Security Review (SDSR) come the day before the Spending Review, which is expected to reveal cuts of up to 8% to the military.It follows the release of the new National Security Strategy (NSS), which identified the most pressing risks to UK security.The SDSR explains how Britain will respond to those threats and will go some way to making clear where spending will be cut.Following personal support from Mr Cameron, the Army is expected to emerge largely unscathed, at least in terms of manpower.
Just 7,000 of roughly 102,000 troops are expected to go. It is claimed the reduction will have no impact on the effectiveness of the Army.However the NSS argues against maintaining equipment which is “too rooted in a Cold War mind set”, and many expect tanks and artillery to be culled.Although it will receive the two new aircraft carriers on order, the Royal Navy will lose HMS Ark Royal and be left with a greatly reduced fleet.The Royal Air Force, though, is likely to be the hardest hit.Defence Secretary Liam Fox has conceded the new aircraft carriers will be left without planes for some time.
He told Sky News: “It is not unprecedented not to have jets on our carriers.”Dr Fox said he would not pre-empt the Prime Minister’s statement or comment on reports one of the new carriers could be sold off.He went on to say the MoD was facing a reduction of spending in order to help slash the deficit and as a result of a “budgetary hangover” inherited from the last government.But he also insisted the cutbacks would not affect the UK’s capabilities: “This is not making us a weaker ally.”
The Ministry of Defence had been asked to give back 10% of its budget as part of the Spending Review.But in what has been viewed as a victory for Mr Fox, sources say they will now only return between 7.5 and 8%.On Monday, Mr Cameron briefed US President Barack Obama on the designated cuts via telephone and discussed the implications of the SDSR – skynews