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Who got it 'wrong' on jets Prime Minister?

F-35C jets Photo:

Labour got it "badly wrong" said the Prime Minister.

He was in the House of Commons. It was October 2010. The government had just published its long-awaited Strategic Defence and Security Review (SDSR).

David Cameron was referring to the decision by the previous government to purchase jump jets for the UK's new aircraft carriers.

The version of the Joint Strike Fighter is called the F35-B.

The government announced it was instead going to buy the F35-C jets which claimed the SDSR, "will allow our carrier to operate in tandem with the US and French navies, and for American and French aircraft to operate from our carrier." The alternative jets said the review also have "a longer range and [are able] to carry more weapons."

So far so good.

PM David Cameron to make a u-turn on aircraft carrier jets Credit: Reuters/Jonathan Ernst

However, these jets do not take-off and land vertically so the Queen Elizabeth aircraft carriers currently under construction needed to be fitted with "catapults" to propel them into the air and "traps" to catch them when they land.

At the time the cost to retrospectively fit the "cats and traps" to the carriers was estimated to be around £400 million and it would delay the in-service date of the ships until 2020.Fast forward to Thursday May 10 2012.

The Defence Secretary will today tell the House of Commons that, er, the jets Labour ordered are actually the best ones.

Yes the fuel tanks are smaller. Yes, there is less room to carry weapons. And no, they cannot operate with the French and American military. But the cost to refit the carriers had spiralled to as much as £2 billion. And the delays might have pushed back the carriers until 2023.

So back to Plan A then. The plan upon which David Cameron and then Defence Secretary Liam Fox had poured scorn.

Who got it "badly wrong"?

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