Britain's fight to get its F-35 aircraft carriers operational turns legal

OK, a bunch of uniformed lawyers had a thinly-disguised knees-up

Screengrab of a control room in new Royal Navy aircraft carrier. One of the screens sports unmistakable Windows XP desktop
A Win XP desktop aboard HMS Queen Elizabeth. El Reg was later assured this was just a techie's joke desktop background

An earth-shaking blow has been struck in the never-ending battle to get Britain’s F-35 fighter jets and the Queen Elizabeth class aircraft carriers to sea: Whitehall has asked the Americans for legal help.

Rather than getting help on kicking contractors’ backsides into gear so Britain actually has enough jets to send HMS Queen Elizabeth to sea in 2023 with a British air wing instead of borrowing half of it from the US Marines, the Royal Navy’s legal eagles have been asking the Yanks for advice on “rules of engagement through to compliance with international treaties on the law of the sea.”

It seems that in the decade since Great Britain last had a proper aircraft carrier, everyone over here has forgotten the basics of how to operate it without getting sued by Johnny Foreigner.

“Our American partners lead the world in carrier strike group operations. So we are delighted to be working with the US Navy judge advocate general to help maximise our legal readiness in support of our nation’s return to carrier strike,” said Commodore Andrew Jameson, chief lawyer of the RN, in a canned quote from the MoD.

We are told Cdre Jameson has command of four dozen naval legal officers. His US counterpart, Vice Admiral James Crawford, has a fleet of 1,400 uniformed lawyers at his beck and call.

One hopes that these high-level legal discussions will reveal something ultimately useful to the RN, though given that Britain still operates helicopter carriers – conceptually, not much different from a true aircraft carrier – exactly what operational developments in carrier aviation require US legal advice is entirely unclear.

With the government dragging its heels over shutting down the fatally flawed Iraq Historical Allegations Team, set up to investigate alleged abuses committed by British military personnel against unarmed civilians and which was undermined when it was revealed that certain law firms were abusing the “no win, no fee” agreement to earn money by egging on Iraqis making fake legally-aided claims for compensation, perhaps diverting a bunch of military lawyers for a posh networking opportunity with the US isn’t the best of publicity moves. ®

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