Government review may offer hope to Fylde aircraft makers

The Typhoon production line at Warton
The Typhoon production line at Warton

A Government announcement that the UK is to launch a Combat Aircraft Review has raised hopes that aircraft manufacturing jobs could be safeguarded on the Fylde.

Blackpool North and Cleveleys MP Paul Maynard was quick to welcome the review which could see such an aircraft be part of that policy.

He said the move had the potential to secure the long-term future of the Fylde coast’s aerospace industry.

The MOD has revealed work will take place across Government and closely with industry and international partners to explore the UK’s future Combat Air capabilities, building on the Industrial Strategy and refreshed Defence Industrial Policy launched last year.

Development of a UK-built Future Combat Aircraft would potentially secure the long term future of the BAE Systems site at Warton which is at the heart of the region’s long-established aerospace industry.

BAE Systems announced late last year that it was having to cut around 2,000 jobs nationally as orders for Typhoon slow down.

Shortly after that Qatar announced it was to confirm orders for 24 Typhoons worth £5bn, which will help keep the Warton production line running.

But long term preservation of engineering and design skills across the county would be best served by moves to start work on a 6th generation combat aircraft to take over after the US- assembled F-35 Lightning which BAE Systems is a partner on.

Mr Maynard said: “I am pleased to hear this announcement which will see industry and Government working together to innovate and deliver new technology for our armed forces.

“I understand how crucial the Future Combat Aircraft is to those who work at Warton and in the many suppliers in and around my own constituency.

“This is the first step in ensuring the ongoing success of the Fylde coast’s aerospace industry. The Future Combat Aircraft programme will potentially secure the future of the BAE Warton site and ensure vital skills built up over generations continue to be put to good use.”

Secretary of State for Defence, Gavin Williamson, said: “As we celebrate 100 years of the RAF protecting our skies, it is fitting that we create bold and ambitious plans to help our brave Armed Forces keep us safe in the face of intensifying threats.

“The Combat Air Strategy will bring together the best of British engineering, skill and design, and deliver a compelling vision for the future of air power.”

Chief of the Air Staff, Air Chief Marshal Sir Stephen Hillier, said: “Combat Air capabilities have been at the heart of the RAF’s capabilities throughout its history, and are constantly employed on operations today.

“This strategy will ensure that the RAF can continue to remain at the forefront of the high-end airpower technology and innovation we need to deal with future threats, working in close collaboration with UK industry and our international partners.”

The Government acknowledged the UK is already a world-leader in the air sector which accounts for 85 per cent of the Britain’s defence export orders. The industry is made up of close to 2,500 companies, generating more than £33.5bn and employing more than 128,000 people.

A spokesman for BAE Systems today said: “We welcome the government’s commitment to developing the UK’s Combat Air Strategy which recognises the central role of the air sector in our nation’s defences and prosperity.

“We look forward to working closely with the government.”

Fylde MP Mark Menzies said: “I’m very pleased to see, after meetings with BAE bosses, union leaders and ministers both in Parliament and in Warton, that the Government is fully committed to protecting these jobs, and ensuring our nation’s security.

“As someone who has championed Typhoon since the day I was elected, I know how vital it is to continue to support our aviation industry.”

See also: BAE downturn in operating profit