A new multimillion-pound contract for the maintenance of British troops' battlefield radios will secure hundreds of defence jobs across the country, the Ministry of Defence (MoD) has announced.
The MoD has awarded a £45 million maintenance contract for the armed forces' Bowman radio, a secure digital voice and data system which allows frontline soldiers to communicate with colleagues and commanders on the ground, at sea or in the air, and is said to play a vital role in Afghanistan.
The new contract is expected to secure up to 300 British defence jobs, both through General Dynamics UK, which will provide essential support for troops across the globe who use Bowman, with other jobs being sustained across the supply chain.
Minister for Defence Equipment Support and Technology Philip Dunne said: "General Dynamics have a proven record of delivering high-quality support services to our armed forces.
"Bowman is a key communications asset, used by all three services across the globe, enabling greater situational awareness and critically providing a secure system for information-sharing and communications.
"This £45 million contract is a good example of how one of our prime contractors is working closely with UK-based small and medium-sized enterprises, helping to rebalance the economy and laying the foundations for lasting growth and shared prosperity in the defence industry."
The deal will secure 150 jobs at General Dynamics' site in Oakdale, South Wales, with another 150 sustained across the supply chain at companies including Wincanton in Bicester, Oxfordshire; Excelis in Basingstoke, Hampshire; and DRS in Farnham, Surrey; as well as smaller companies such as Cablescan in Brough, Yorkshire, and AWE Electronics in Staffordshire.
Richard Willis, managing director of Cablescan, which repairs any electrical wiring on Bowman radios damaged on operations in Afghanistan and return them to the frontline, said: "This Bowman contract provides Cablescan with a bedrock of sustainable work over the next five years which supports the company growth strategy by enabling a fixed level of work to be planned into the production schedule each month.
"As a result, we have created additional jobs and are relocating to a larger facility within one of the country's enterprise zones."
In 2010 the MoD was criticised after thousands of the Bowman radios went missing - raising fears they have fallen into the hands of enemy fighters in Afghanistan.
The Commons' Defence Select Committee said it was "unacceptable" that the MoD could not account for the whereabouts of the radio systems worth, £155 million.