David Cameron is set for an embarrassing U-turn over the fighter aircraft for the Royal Navy's new carriers, it was reported today.
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 yesterday's meeting of the National Security Council. An announcement was said to be "imminent".
Under the 2010 Strategic Defence and Security Review, 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 to one of the carriers is reported to have spiralled from an estimated £40m to almost £2bn.
The decision will be an embarrassment for Mr Cameron who strongly criticised the original decision by Labour to opt for the jump jet.
Shadow Defence Secretary Jim Murphy said: "This is a personal humiliation for David Cameron, who will have to return to Labour's policy, which he previously condemned.
"Scrapping the Harriers to leave Britain without aircraft to fly from aircraft carriers for at least a decade appears increasingly inexplicable.
"The Defence Secretary's [Philip Hammond] misplaced triumphalism is overshadowed by a widespread worry about the handling of major defence projects."
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