The UK may invite U.S. fighter jets to use its new aircraft carrier after delays to the country's F-35B planes suggest that the aircraft carrier will be in service for years before the country has planes to launch from the vessel, according to a report from the BBC.
The UK is currently building two aircraft carriers, the HMS Queen Elizabeth and the HMS Prince of Wales, which will be the largest vessels ever built for the Royal Navy. It hopes to commission one of the carriers by 2017, and have one ready for operational duty by 2020. However, the F-35B stealth "jump jets" that Britain had planned to fly off of the carrier have encountered a host of problems, meaning that they are unlikely to be ready for service until years after the carrier is.
The F-35B has suffered from testing problems with its enormously complex software, an engine fire and tiny cracks on the surface. Former Chief of the Defense Staff General Lord Richards told the BBC that asking U.S. jets to use the carrier as a base of operations was sensible.
"If we can catch up using American aircraft in the intervening period that would make good sense," he said.
Sources inside Britain's Ministry of Defense told the BBC that U.S. jets would be offered the use of the carrier's flight platform. Britain is currently without an operational aircraft carrier, after the HMS Illustrious was removed from service in July 2014.
Successive UK governments have cut defense spending in recent years, as the country endured the effects of the 2008 financial crisis, and came to terms with a less prominent role on the world stage than it enjoyed in the first half of the twentieth century.
In January 2014, former U.S. Secretary of Defense Robert Gates warned that Britain's reduced military spending would threaten its historic alliance with the U.S., according to the Washington Post.
“With the fairly substantial reductions in defense spending in Great Britain, what we are finding is they won’t have full-spectrum capabilities and the ability to be a full partner as they have been in the past,” Gates had said.
The UK has also been critical of some of its NATO allies for refusing to spend enough on defense. “Britain is one of only four countries that currently spends 2 percent of its GDP on defense,” Prime Minister David Cameron said in September, according to the Telegraph.