MPs' Red Arrows demand to save BAE jobs

Red Arrows  PHOTO: PA
Red Arrows PHOTO: PA

Jets flown by the Red Arrows are likely to be built overseas unless the Government intervenes, a cross-party group has warned.

In a letter to Prime Minister Theresa May, 142 MPs have called for orders for replacements of the Hawk plane to be brought forward to save jobs at BAE Systems and keep production in the UK including in Lancashire.

The group warned that unless new contracts are signed soon there will be "virtually no possibility to build any future Hawk aircraft in the UK", according to The Sunday Times.

It could leave the RAF acrobatic team performing its stunning daredevil displays in foreign-built aircraft in future years.

BAE Systems announced on Tuesday that it is planning to cut almost 2,000 jobs in its military, maritime and intelligence services to give it "sharper" competitive edge.

Around 40% of a new Hawk is manufactured at the company's site at Brough, East Yorkshire, and the rest at Warton and Samlesbury.

"By ordering a new fleet of planes to be used by the iconic RAF Aerobatic Display Team, the Government will not only help to mitigate the job losses, but will also guarantee the continued production of the Hawk in the UK," the letter said.

The Tmk1 aircraft used by the Red Arrows has had its out of service date extended by 10 years to 2030.

The group, which includes former Labour leader Ed Miliband and the Conservative chairman of the 1922 Committee Graham Brady, said the planes entered service during the 1970s so the likelihood of them progressing beyond 2030 is "extremely low".

The letter said: "The age of the aircraft affects their reliability to perform, as has been seen recently at air shows where the Red Arrows have flown with a reduced number of aircraft in their formation.

"If the Red Arrows are allowed to continue flying Hawk Tmk1 aircraft until 2030, and the UK has lost the capability and skills to build a replacement aircraft of any type with a similar flight capability, then any future Red Arrows Aerobatics team would have to have its aircraft procured from abroad, which would be devastating for both the aerospace industry in Great Britain and also for the UK economy."

The letter, backed by 120 Labour MPs, 21 Tories and DUP chief whip Sir Jeffrey Donaldson, was organised by Labour MP Diana Johnson and Conservative MP Andrew Percy, whose constituencies include BAE workers.

It adds: "These planned job cuts will not only undermine Britain's sovereign defence capability, but also deeply impact on communities across the UK who rely on these skilled jobs, as well as the large number of jobs - an estimated four jobs for every job at each site - in the supply chain.

"We therefore ask for the Government to look immediately and closely at the option of whether or not the replacement of the Red Arrows could be brought forward."