Fylde aircraft workers' joy as plans for new jet begin

Defence Secretary Gavin Williamson and the mock-up of the 6th Generation warplane the Tempest
Defence Secretary Gavin Williamson and the mock-up of the 6th Generation warplane the Tempest

The Government’s commitment to start work on a sixth generation warplane has been welcomed by aircraft maker unions in Lancashire.

Union heads at BAE Systems’ Warton and Samlesbury sites said the £2bn project to develop a new aircraft, the Tempest, and upgrade equipment for the Typhoon and F-35 would help to retain skills and give hope for the future for the 10,000 staff at the sites.

Unite union man at Warton, Bob Holmes, said: “It is great news and something the union, the company and the MOD have been working on for two years.

“The four companies involved, BAE Systems, Rolls-Royce, Leonardo and MBDA, are putting in £1bn and the Government is matching that.

“It will pay for a demonstrator aircraft, which we are hoping will be built here at Warton and is to be started next year, and the plan is to have a full production aircraft by 2035.

“There is so much work to be done in the background once we have a demonstrator, we will need the support of partner nations.

“There are all sorts of things to be sorted out but it is fantastic news for the employees.”

He said in the short term it may not affect the current round of redundancies at BAE Systems, but workers are hoping to pick up a few more orders for the Typhoon to help retain skills.

Union man at Samlesbury, Roland Entwhistle said: “Obviously this announcement is fantastic news and the union has been pressing for this for years.

“Here in Lancashire is the last place in the country that could build any future aircraft, if we did not get this call for the next generation aircraft it would have been the end of the industry in the UK.

“It will not prevent short term problems but this is a long term project to help retain skills and it has given everyone a lift.”