BAE signs £1.6bn Saudi jets deal

 

Defence giant BAE Systems has won a £1.6 billion contract to supply Hawk aircraft to Saudi Arabia, preventing more than 200 potential job losses at one of its factories.

The firm will supply 55 Pilatus PC-21 aircraft and 22 Hawk advanced jet trainer aircraft, as well as spares and technical support, to the Royal Saudi Air Force (RSAF).

Unions welcomed the deal but said it made no difference to the Hawk site at Brough in North Yorkshire, where manufacturing will end under previously announced cutbacks.

Guy Griffiths, BAE's group managing director International, said: "We have a long history in the kingdom of Saudi Arabia and, working with Pilatus, we will provide the RSAF with the best training platforms to meet their requirements.

"Through the Hawk advanced jet trainer, the trainee fast jet pilots will have access to the very latest in advanced simulation for radar, weapons and defensive aids training to enable a smooth transition to frontline aircraft, including Typhoon."

Deliveries of the Pilatus PC-21, manufactured in Switzerland, will start in 2014. The UK-built Hawk aircraft will be delivered from 2016.

Ian Waddell, Unite's national officer for aerospace, said: "This is good news for BAE, but makes no difference to the Brough site. This contract was always in the plan and the announcement has been anticipated for the last year.

"We've managed to save about 200 jobs at Brough, but still have a massive challenge to save the other 650.

"There are other BAE sites across the North West where workers are also frightened for their future and thousands of jobs are at risk.

"Two hundred jobs saved feels like a drop in the ocean for our members. BAE's strategy of transferring Hawk from the Brough site to Lancashire was predicated on them winning this Saudi order, so it will not save any of the jobs currently under threat at either Brough or the Lancashire sites."

BAE said today's announcement prevented 218 potential job losses at Brough and guaranteed work for 30 apprentices when they complete their training.

The company announced last September that 865 jobs were threatened by the ending of manufacturing at Brough, but a spokesman said 118 jobs had already been saved, and a further 73 jobs were available to workers from the Yorkshire site at other BAE centres in Samlesbury and Warton in Lancashire.

Most of future manufacturing of Hawk aircraft will take place at the Lancashire sites, but BAE said there will be some work in Brough as a result of today's contract news.

Prime Minister David Cameron told MPs it was "more good news for British jobs, for British investment and British Aerospace".

PA

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