Contract will mean up to 5,000 jobs in UK

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The Independent Online
RUSSELL HOTTEN

About 50 per cent of the work on the Apache order will be done in the UK, and economists have calculated this will provide up to 71,000 man- years of work.

Although Westland said no new jobs would be created at its factories - as British Aerospace and GEC claimed they would have done - it is said that up to 5,000 new jobs will be generated among suppliers. Critics of the decision to choose Westland claimed yesterday that either of the other two bids would have created around 10,000 jobs.

Nevertheless, work on the project, one of the largest defence procurements this decade, will involve about 180 sub-contractors, many of them among the large number of aerospace firms in the South-west.

Among the main beneficiaries, other than Yeovil-based Westland, will be Rolls-Royce's Bristol plant, which gets a pounds 63m contract to supply the Apache helicopter's engines, two of which are required for each of the 67 helicopters.

Alvis, the aerospace and defence company, is in line for a pounds 40m contract for target systems. Fairey, the electronics group, would take on a pounds 22m contract to supply rotor actuators, which determine the pitch of the helicopter blades.

Hunting, the engineering group, is likely to receive a pounds 50m order to supply weapons integration systems. And the contract is good news for Northern Ireland, where Shorts, now owned by the Canadian aerospace group Bombardier, receives a pounds 50m contract to supply aero structures and missiles.

Pilkington Aerospace can begin work on a pounds 1.5m order to supply glazing systems, which could be worth a further pounds 2.9m in exports and spares. Other companies to benefit included Birmingham- based Lucas Industries, expected to supply engine and flight controls, Smiths Industries, in Cheltenham, and BP Chemicals.

Sir David Lees, chairman of GKN, Westland's parent, said winning the order would mean job security for the 5,000 workforce - 3,000 of whom are on helicopter production. "It is an important order which would not only add to our portfolio but would strengthen Westland as a major force in world helicopter activity. To lose such an order would have been a big disappointment,'' he said.

Opponents say the company's role in the programme is to act as a glorified screwdriver plant, assembling bits shipped over from the US partner, McDonnell Douglas. However, Westland said it would involve UK industry being at the cutting edge of technology and secure Britain's place as a major helicopter manufacturer.

Westland will assemble the 67 Apaches over the next seven years, though support and maintenance will continue for a further 30 years.

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