Controversial from the start, the UK’s new aircraft carrier program has endured many twists and turns. It is now 14 years since the government first defined the need for new carriers and it will be another four years before the first of the two Queen Elizabeth II-class warships is delivered. Beyond that, it will be another four years before the carrier-strike capability becomes fully operational, in 2020.
Sixteen Harrier GR.7/9 V/STOL (vertical and/or short take-off and landing) jets flew over the UK Midlands Wednesday to mark the type’s retirement from British military service. The 70-strong Harrier force fell victim to the recent Strategic Defence and Security Review (SDSR), and the UK Ministry of Defence (MoD) has since rushed to ground them in a vain attempt to stem criticism of the decision.