Weighing in at 65,000 tonnes, the Royal Navy’s new Queen Elizabeth-class aircraft carriers are the service’s biggest ships, and return the UK to a small club of nations with naval air strike capabilities. The programme to acquire three “fleet solid support” (FSS) ships to provide technical support and provisions for the carriers is yet to start in earnest, but for years has been mired in controversy over the possibility the 40,000-tonne vessels could also be built abroad. […] For UK shipbuilding yards, such Appledore in Devon, Cammell Laird in Birkenhead and Harland & Wolff in Belfast, the FSS being British-built could be a matter of life and death. […] The programme would be “the genesis of a great UK shipbuilding industry, and allow us to develop the skills and expertise for the shipyards of tomorrow”, he added. […] Ian Wadell, general-secretary of the Shipbuilding and Engineering Unions that has fought bitterly to have FSS vessels built in Britain, said: “This lack of certainty is hugely frustrating given that we still have no idea what this means for UK shipyards.
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