British firms share fighter deal benefits

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The Independent Online

BAE systems, Rolls-Royce and Smiths Group spelt out yesterday the huge benefits they will gain from the $200bn (£140bn) Joint Strike Fighter contract awarded by the US government to Lockheed Martin on Friday.

The British defence and engineering companies will all share in the contract to build up to 3,000 fighter aircraft in three variants for the US and UK armed forces, with the first planes due for delivery in 2008. There is also export potential for more than 2,000 more aircraft.

Smiths said this was its biggest ever business opportunity, putting the sales stemming from the deal at $10bn over the lifetime of the aircraft – including spares and programme upgrades. Its supplies to the JSF include electrical power systems and weapon control devices.

Rolls-Royce said that 900 jobs at Bristol and in the US would be sustained as a result of the contract, which will be worth over $1bn to the company. It will provide short take-off vertical landing components, enabling the aircraft to take off and land in locations with minimal or no runway space, making it a very versatile aircraft.

BAE Systems said the group's share of the project was worth £1.8bn during the initial development phase. Once full-scale production of the fighter starts in around 10 years' time, BAE stands to gain £10bn, of which £7bn would be in the UK and the rest in the US.

Among the smaller UK defence and aerospace companies, Cobham's equipment on the Lockheed planes is worth $100,000 per aircraft.