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Aircraft Carriers

Volume 588: debated on Monday 24 November 2014

10. When (a) HMS Queen Elizabeth and (b) HMS Prince of Wales will set out to sea under their own power for the first time. (906187)

In September the Prime Minister announced that he would bring both carriers into service so that we always have one carrier available 100% of the time. Final equipment installation and system commissioning plans are being developed for both the aircraft carriers, so we expect HMS Queen Elizabeth to proceed to sea under her own power for the first time in 2017 and HMS Prince of Wales to do so in 2019.

Can the Minister confirm that British F-35Bs, not US marine corps planes, will be the first to operate from the carriers?

What I can confirm to the hon. Lady and to the House is that we have today signed a contract for the first batch of four operational aircraft for the first squadron to operate, both from the aircraft carriers and on land.

When the carriers are happily operational there will still be one other gap at sea, which will be in marine patrol aircraft. Can the Minister share with the House any moves as to how that gap is going to be filled?

As my hon. Friend knows from his persistent challenging of the Front-Bench team on this and other equipment issues, we recognise the need to consider how to meet the maritime patrol aircraft capability gap as part of the strategic defence and security review 2015.