Prime Minister hails £50m defence deal


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Indy Politics

A £50 million defence contract which will boost the RAF and UK manufacturing is being signed today as the Farnborough Air Show opens.

Hailed by Prime Minister David Cameron, the contract is being placed by the Ministry of Defence (MoD) for a full flight simulator for the Airbus A400M.

The simulator will be located at RAF Brize Norton in Oxfordshire.

The simulators are designed and built by Thales Training and Simulation in Crawley, West Sussex, with the contract helping sustain 50 high-tech UK jobs and skills.

The MoD has ordered 22 of the A400Ms to replace the fleet of C-130 Hercules, with the first delivery expected in 2014.

Mr Cameron also announced £3 million of government funding for 500 degree-level places in aerospace engineering over the next three years.

It was also announced today that the next steps for exploiting potential future capabilities of the Eurofighter Typhoon aircraft had been agreed by the fighter aircraft's partners - the UK, Spain, Germany and Italy.

Steps include the integration of the Meteor missile, an E-Scan radar, enhancements of the defensive aids system, further development of the air-to-air and air-to-ground capabilities and integration of new weapons.

The announcements follow last week's government decision to axe 17 major army units, reducing the number of regular soldiers by 20,000 by 2020.

Mr Cameron said today: “In a hugely difficult time in the global economy UK aerospace is, quite simply, flying - employing more than 100,000 people, turning over more than £20 billion a year, holding a 17% share of the global market.

“But there can be absolutely no complacency. International competition gets more fierce by the year. The UK has got to fight for every contract and every opportunity.”

He said the Government was doing everything possible to get behind UK aerospace, establishing an aerospace growth partnership “to make sure that five, 10, 20 years down the line this industry continues to thrive and grow”.

“We're investing in skills, including 500 Masters-level qualifications in aerospace engineering over the next few years. We're pulling every lever we've got to make sure those good, high-skilled jobs come to Britain and stay in Britain.”

Mr Cameron continued: “The further development of Typhoon that we have been working on with our partners is good for the RAF who need this capability, good for our export customers who want it too and brilliant for the British manufacturers and British workers who are going to benefit.

“From this government you will see nothing less than an unstinting, unrelenting, unflagging commitment to making Britain the best place in the world for aerospace businesses to invest, design, manufacture and export.”

Business Secretary Vince Cable said: “The UK aerospace sector is a national success story and to ensure we stay ahead of the game we need to attract the brightest and best to the industry.

“Our new Masters partnership will boost the skills needed for growth. It will enable companies to train up existing employees and get talented new people into the aerospace sector at Masters level.”

Up to 250,000 visitors are expected at the six-day Farnborough Air Show, which opens today in Hampshire.

Around 1,400 exhibitors from more than 40 countries will attend, including Sir Richard Branson, who will be giving an update on his Virgin Galactic space tourism plans.

Space will be a recurring theme of the show, which is held once every two years, with the 2010 show leading to the placing of orders worth a total of £30 billion.

As well as Sir Richard showing what his SpaceShipTwo spacecraft will look like, the show will also have a space zone, with exhibits from the UK Space Agency.

The Red Arrows will feature in the five-hour flying display that will take place on the two public days of the show - Saturday and Sunday.

There will also be a variety of military jets and historic aircraft on display, with the world's largest passenger plane, the Airbus A380 superjumbo, among the aircraft that will fly.

The show comes at a time when UK airlines and airports eagerly await the Government's imminent publication of a for-consultation document on aviation policy.

The Government says it is still opposed to a third runway at Heathrow airport in west London but recognises the need for more capacity in south-east England.

Expansion really will be necessary if a worldwide poll by Airbus, published to mark the start of the Farnborough show, is anything to go by.

The survey, following a two-year consultation with more than 1.75 million people, showed that 63% said they would fly more by 2050 and 60% did not think social media would replace the need for to see people face-to-face.

Airbus and its American rival Boeing are expected to announce a number of big orders at Farnborough.

Seattle-based Boeing will be flying its new 787 Dreamliner passenger plane at the show.

The show's events and exhibitions director Amanda Stainer said: “Farnborough attracts a truly global audience. This, along with the many initiatives that are available, equates for a real event for doing business.”