Qioptiq based in Denbighshire, North Wales has secured an £82m contract from the Ministry of Defence to maintain combat equipment used by the British Army and Royal Marines. Such equipment includes Night Vision Goggles (NVG) and laser-based target designation and rangefinder devices. The deal effectively merges up to 20 previous contracts for the equipment in order to save the taxpayer’s money. The six year contract was made public at the IDEX trade show in Abu Dhabi by Harriett Baldwin MP, the minister for defence procurement;
It’s a pleasure to announce this £82 million contract here at IDEX. This deal will provide our troops with the equipment they need to stay safe, while also delivering £47 million of savings. This contract is made possible by our £178 billion equipment plan, supported by a defence budget that will rise every year until the end of the decade.
The announcement is yet a further boost to the North Wales economy thanks to the MoD after it was announced in November last year that the Defence Electronics & Components Agency (DECA) based at MOD Sealand would become a global repair hub for the Lockheed Martin F-35 Lightning II. DECA will provide maintenance, repair, overhaul and upgrade services for the F-35’s avionics and engineering components.
Secretary of State for Wales, Alun Cairns told the Daily Post;
This massive contract for Qioptiq underlines Wales’ reputation as a world leader in the defence technology sector…This enormous vote on confidence in the Welsh economy demonstrates that we offer the highly skilled workforce and facilities that investors need. It is also clearly great news for employment in the region.
Italian company Leonardo Helicopters subcontracts out the assembly of the Lynx Wildcat helicopters for the Royal Navy to GKN which carries out the work at their facility in Yeovil, Somerset adjacent to RNAS Yeovilton. However, staff at the site have been told that as many as 230 jobs could be lost due to Leonardo deciding to relocate assembly to Italy.
A Leonardo spokesman was quoted in Manufacturing and Engineering Magazine (MEM) as saying that the primary reason for them relocating the work to Italy was due to “changes in their demand” making the current arrangement “no longer sustainable”. However, MEM have quoted sources claiming that Leonardo’s decision is politically motivated as opposed to reflecting a change in demand.
The Lynx Wildcat is the latest development of the earlier Westland Lynx and will become one of the most significant rotary-wing types in service with the Royal Navy’s Fleet Air Arm over the coming decade. The engines are considerably more powerful than the previous generation Lynx HMA.8’s Gem 42-200 powerplants providing significantly improved performance when operating in hot and high conditions. The aircraft’s flight and weapon systems are also significantly improved.
Union representatives are demanding greater government action to protect GKN employees and other defence industry jobs from going overseas particularly in the wake of the Brexit vote which some claim has left the UK in a state of industrial limbo which has dissuaded investment.