Two Carriers But No Jet Fighters As The Iconic Harrier Is Axed


Two new aircraft carriers will be deployed ­without jet fighters after the iconic Harrier jump jet is axed in defence cuts this week.

The ships, due to enter service in 2014 and 2016, will ­operate with no jets until 2018, leaving a ­gaping hole in Britain’s military firepower and potentially putting the Falkland Islands at the mercy of a fresh Argentinian invasion.

Instead the Royal Navy will be forced to use helicopters on the £2.5 billion super-carriers, HMS Queen Elizabeth and HMS Prince of Wales.

The decision has caused anger among defence chiefs. ‘It will make us an international laughing stock,’ said one. ‘Who the hell has ever heard of an aircraft carrier with no jets?’

Former First Sea Lord Admiral Lord West said last night it would be ‘nonsensical’ to scrap the Harriers before their replacements, US-built Joint Strike Fighters, were delivered.

Lord West said: ‘If, God forbid, the Argentinians invade the Falklands, it would be totally impossible for this country, even if we had an Army of ten million, to do anything about it.’

The Harriers, the only jet fighters capable of vertical take-off and landing, played a vital part in retaking the Falklands in 1982.

The Ministry of Defence denied that scrapping them would render the new carriers useless.

An official said it was ‘not viable’ for the RAF to maintain four jet fighters – Harriers, Tornados, Typhoons and the Joint Strike Fighter.