What a great debate ! Lewis always gets em going !
Sorry guys the bean-counters did sink the Harriers, but the reasons are all about greedy, greedy RAF and Fleet Air Arm hubris.
When the JSF (F35) was mooted, USMC got talking to RNFAM about a variant with Short Take Off Vertical Landing to replace / enhance Harrier fleets with an invisible, supersonic hover-bird.
Only Harrier was conceived and operated at the "cheap-end" of the financial spectrum, it's fixed costs were written down (development and manufacture investment), it's future development path was limited (no chance of any Air Vice Marshal or Admiral getting sticky hands on big project budgets to make themselves look important).
So replacing with F35 B's looked (and was) a massive step-change increase in cost of acquisition and operation/maintenance per unit - the business case was very weak indeed.
So the smart alec's got together and created the most expensive OPEX business unit either RAF or FAM ever had - Joint Force Harrier - cost was no object as they had to make the current budget so big it would make the step-jump to F35's look relatively sane . . . in happy expectation that the idiotic Labour Party running the Gordon Brown Bingo-Ticket jamboree would cough up whenever F35 arrived.
Unfortunately F35 is very, very late (amazingly JFH forgot to consider this), and then, in 2008 something happened outside of JFH's Happy-Go-Lucky Mess budget - a whopper of a financial crisis.
Finally the Mad, One-Eyed Scotch Git was chucked out, after spending all the money on Burgers, and along came some nearer to sane politico's looking to try and save the household.
Carriers and their planes look a big, big thing, so got some attention, they basically asked JFH whether they could save any OPEX money or not ? What a problem ?
Say "Yes" and the now even-bigger step-up to their 'Super-Harrier' would look unscaleable, or Say "No" take the chop (maybe lose 2-3 squadrons ?), and be able to go back into the historic accounts for justifying the budget you need for your shiny new toy ?
So they said "No" - and MoD and UK Cabinet pulled the 100% plug and killed the brilliant cold climate grasshopper for good.
Would the members of the command elite who had presided over this fraud (because it was fraud and you'd better hope the National Audit Office aren't bored one day and open those reports otherwise it's ball and chain for some of you Commodores, Marshals and Admirals) come clean to save the "old girl" ?
No chance Greedy Sods, Jam today (nobody was demoted after being promoted into the Virtual World of Joint force Harrier, then having it shot from under them), and more Jam tomorrow with all those shiny new toys - in 2020 at todays rate of success.
My only hope is some smartarse in the cabinet buys a fleet of drones instead and cancels the whole F35 order. If we are going to buy carriers with Catobars we should buy up 2014-2018 production of F18 SuperHornets ahead of time, that way we'd get something useful to replace all other supersonic types, and use the drones for those interdiction/strike missions we previously expected to use the "Ghost Planes" for. Mind you BAE will probably come up with a non-flying winged Kack costing 90% of an F35 as the drone, coz them American ones are just too reliable.
If in doubt ? Spend tax-payers money as unwisely as possible - UK Armed Forces Unofficial Motto - the key is to spend big on stuff that doesn't work apparently . . .