New fighter jets contract to boost jobs

 

Thousands of jobs are to be created in the UK aerospace industry under a new programme of fighter jet-building.

The components for the 3,000-strong fleet of F-35 jets are to be built by a number of different companies up and down the country before the planes are assembled in the United States and begin to be delivered in 2015.

The design and manufacture of the fifth generation aircraft is expected to create and sustain some 25,000 jobs in the UK over 30 years, according to Lockheed Martin, which is leading the contractorship.

Involving around 130 firms across the country, it is projected to increase UK GDP by £28.7 billion over the period between 2009 and 2036.

The Joint Strike Fighter planes, which have been in development since the mid-90s, are expected to be used by the Ministry of Defence (MoD) to replace Harrier and Tornado jets, with two of three test aircraft to be handed over to the UK in June.

A number of other countries around the world including Australia, Italy, Canada and the Netherlands have also already made orders, with the US buying the largest proportion to provide the bulk of its tactical airpower.

Work will primarily be carried out at the BAE Systems site at Samlesbury, Lancashire, where the fuselage and other structural components will be made.

Other places to benefit include companies with sites at Denham in Buckinghamshire, Birkenhead in Wirral, Lostock in Lancashire, Wimborne in Dorset, Bristol and Southampton.

Paul Livingston, director of aeronautics for Lockheed Martin in the UK, said it would provide a "huge boost" to British industry.

He said: "The basic core programme of F-35 is going to build 3,173 aircraft for multiple users.

"For UK companies, there's about 130 of them that have won work for the programme, they'll build the components for all 3,173 of those aircraft and that means roughly for the UK economy about £30 billion in GDP and around 25,000 jobs for the next 30 years.

"It's really spread across the country, a lot in the North West as well, so areas that could really do with these kind of hi-tech, high-value jobs that help stimulate the rest of the economy in that area.

"The Government here are looking very much for an export-led agenda, and the thing about that £30 billion is that it is nearly all export money - it's components being built for these aircraft that will go all around the world.

"So it's a huge boost and there isn't a single other programme that would be out there to replace the level of impact this will have for UK industry."

PA

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