In response to a question asked by Kevan Jones, MP for North Durham, it has been revealed that a Queen Elizabeth class aircraft carrier costs £96 million per year to operate.
Kevan Jones, MP for North Durham, asked:
“To ask the Secretary of State for Defence, what estimate his Department has made of the cost of operating each aircraft carrier each year.”
Jeremy Quin, Minister of State for the Ministry of Defence, responded explaining he would write to Jones.
“In order to ensure a full response I will write to the right. Hon Member.”
Quin later sent the following in a letter in response to Mr Jones.
“The estimated cost to the Royal Navy of a Queen Elizabeth Class Aircraft Carrier is £96M per annum.”
It is likely that the above figure is simply the cost to operate the ship with the air wing being an additional expense.
For perspective, a 1998 U.S. GAO report estimated the 50 year direct operating cost of a Nimitz class carrier at $11.7 billion, or about $234 million per year.
The origins of the massive and sometimes controversial Queen Elizabeth class carrier programme lie in the 1998 Strategic Defence Review.
The review re-evaluated every weapon system (active or in procurement) with the exception of the Eurofighter Typhoon and the Vanguard-class ballistic missile submarines.
The report identified that aircraft carriers offered the following:
- Ability to operate offensive aircraft abroad when foreign basing may be denied.
- All required space and infrastructure; where foreign bases are available they are not always available early in a conflict and infrastructure is often lacking.
- A coercive and deterrent effect when deployed to a trouble spot.
The report concluded:
“The emphasis is now on increased offensive air power, and an ability to operate the largest possible range of aircraft in the widest possible range of roles. When the current carrier force reaches the end of its planned life, we plan to replace it with two larger vessels.”
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