USS Prince of Wales?

The Telegraph published an article by Thomas Harding entitled: “Aircraft carrier costs will be half of what you think, US tells ministers, “ on 24 March 2012. Harding quotes Assistant Secretary of the US Navy, Sean J Stackley, as saying that converting HMS Prince of Wales so that she can be used by the Joint Strike Fighter (JSF) will require significantly less than the £2 billion quoted by U.K. defence officials. Now, beyond the immediate giggles at the headline (The Americans have been SO good at estimating the costs of their programs, right?), the bottom of the article hides something that I think deserves much more discussion:

Two British carriers are being built, but one will be mothballed following the SDSR. Reverting to jump jets for both of them would not help American military planners, who want to be able to base a squadron of their own jets on a British carrier. Separate accommodation is being built on board HMS Prince of Wales with communications facilities that would be for “US Eyes Only”.

This is the first time that I have read of this arrangement - maybe it was included in the SDSR and I missed it, but it certainly did not set off any significant ‘buzz’ at the time.

Perhaps the author of the article was playing loose with the term ‘squadron’ and the basing in question referred only to the current system of sending the occasional aircraft across decks for interoperability training. But if there truly is such a concept in development, surely it is worthy of greater discussion.

Keeping in mind that the British are to have only a small handful of JSFs (6, I believe) by the time the Queen Elizabeth-class enter service, it kind of makes sense to fill out the rest of the deck and hangar space, even if it is with foreign aircraft. In theory, a US air wing on a British-crewed carrier will allow the Brits to gain the operational experience needed for the ship as well as keeping it operationally useful until the British get enough JSFs to operate the carrier on their own to its full potential.

But if the decision to base a complete squadron of USN JSFs onboard Prince of Wales (the Telegraph article seems to imply that only Prince of Wales will have the modifications for US occupancy) is going to go through, then a whole series of questions pops up.

Under which country's command will the carrier operate? How about the air wing? Will the Brits serve as mere chauffeurs for the American planes, or will they dictate which operations the American planes can get into? Neither of these arrangement seem palatable to the proud services of both countries.

Another line of discussion from this would be whether the American interest in operating from the carriers would be enough to keep both Queen Elizabeth-class ships in active service. Would the US be willing to subsidize the operating costs of the second carrier in order to have an extra deck for a low price? Or perhaps I'm reading too much into a single news article and this is all silly talk.