Ex-Defence chief in call to cut new aircraft carrier order down to one
Marshal of the RAF Lord Craig of Radley, chief of the defence staff at the time of the first Gulf War, said the Defence Ministry's autumn performance report showed "shortfalls approaching 49% of junior Fleet Air Arm harrier pilots and over 57% of experienced RAF harrier instructors".
Lord Craig asked at Lords question time: "Will this not seriously jeopardise the Fleet Air Arm's ability to provide the fast jet command and leadership required to operate their full fleet of F-35s in the coming decade.
"Has not the time come to be realistic, to halve the number of these aircraft to be procured by the Fleet Air Arm and to limit the carrier order to just one vessel?"
Defence minister Baroness Taylor of Bolton had earlier said the Government would decide early next year whether to buy F-35 Lightning II aircraft, which are being developed in the joint strike fighter programme, to allow the UK to carry out testing alongside the US.
She told Lord Craig: "We do intend to have two carriers. There is pressure on the harriers at present and that is one of the reasons why they are being replaced by tornados in Afghanistan to try to release the burden of continuous operation and activity there."
Lady Taylor added: "We do have a programme for training pilots and we have made some significant progress ... We can be confident we will be using the best pilots possible in all our fleet."