May 9 2012
David Cameron is set for an embarrassing U-turn over the fighter aircraft for the Royal Navy's new carriers, it has been reported.
The Prime Minister has finally signed off a decision to revert to the jump jet variant of the US-built F-35 Joint Strike Fighter - as planned by the former Labour government - according to the Daily Telegraph.
A Government source confirmed that the issue had been discussed at Tuesday's meeting of the National Security Council. An announcement was said to be "imminent".
Under the 2010 Strategic Defence and Security Review (SDSR), the coalition had planned to switch to the carrier variant - the F-35C - arguing that it was a more capable aircraft and, unlike the F-35B jump jet, would be inter-operable with the US and French navies.
However the costs of fitting the necessary catapults and arrester gear - "cats and traps" - to one of the carriers while the other ship was mothballed is reported to have spiralled from an estimated £400 million to almost £2 billion.
In an interview with the Telegraph this week, Defence Secretary Philip Hammond confirmed that "the facts have changed" on the choice of aircraft since the time of the SDSR.
Nevertheless the decision will be an embarrassment for Mr Cameron who strongly criticised the original decision by Labour to opt for the jump jet.