In mid-October the British government announced the result of its Strategic Defence Review in parallel with its new budget. Given the financial crisis and the perceived need to reduce deficit spending, deep cuts were widely expected. The Royal Navy will still receive the two Queen Elizabeth-class carriers, but British participation in the short takeoff/vertical landing (STOVL) version of the Joint Strike Fighter (F-35B) has been canceled. The joint Royal Navy-Royal Air Force Harrier force is to be eliminated.
Since the carriers were designed without catapults or arresting gear, the first ship completed, HMS Queen Elizabeth, will have no fighter capability at all; she will be, in effect, a huge helicopter carrier. Her sister ship, HMS Prince of Wales, will be completed with catapults and arresting gear, a possibility inherent in the design. On completion she will operate Joint Strike Fighters (JSF), but in radically reduced numbers (12, according to the announcement, rather than 24 or more). Once the second ship has been completed, Queen Elizabeth will be either laid up or converted with catapults and arresting gear.