Aerospace workers across the North of England faced losing their jobs after defence giant BAE Systems today confirmed it will slash a total of nearly 2,000 roles.
In a drive to streamline its operations and focus more on technology, the defence giant has looked to cut back its military plane business, with 1,400 of the jobs axed across five sites – particularly Warton and Salmesbury in Lancashire where the Eurofighter Typhoon aircraft assembly takes place.
The UK’s biggest defence supplier has come under pressure as a long-expected Typhoon order from Saudi Arabia has yet to materialise.
The cost-cutting will mainly affect BAE’s production of Typhoone fighters at sites like Warton in Lancashire, where it assembles the warplanes.
Jobs will also be cut at Brough in East Yorkshire and at RAF bases in Marham, Norfolk, and Leeming in North Yorkshire.
Around 375 proposed redundancies were announced in BAE’s maritime servicing and support business, mainly affecting Portsmouth.
Some jobs will also go from the company’s cyber intelligence business in London and Guildford.
Chief executive Charles Woodburn said: ‘The organisational changes we are announcing today accelerate our evolution to a more streamlined, de-layered organisation, with a sharper competitive edge and a renewed focus on technology.
‘These actions will further strengthen our company as we deliver our strategy in a changing environment.’
It is the first major move made by Mr Woodburn, 46, who took over from retiring Ian King, 61, this year.
The Typhoon jets are a joint project between the UK, Germany, Spain and Italy, with BAE making the front fuselage, fin and foreplanes, and assembling its orders in Warton.
BAE THE NUMBERS
- 510 Eurofighter Typhoons made by BAE and its partners since 2003
- 34,600 employed by BAE in the UK and 83,100 worldwide
- £2bn estimated value of Qatar deal to buy 24 Typhoons
Its key customer Saudi Arabia ordered 72 of the aircraft in 2007 and the final plane was delivered this year.
BAE wants to sell the Saudis a further 48 aircraft to keep production going without any gaps, but has yet to close a deal. In August, managers said they expected more sales of the Typhoon, but could not be certain of any timing and production would be under constant review.
Hopes were raised last month when Qatar signed a letter of intent to buy 24 of the jets, but that has yet to turn into a firm order. Last week analysts at banking group Berenberg cast doubt on the programme.
They said Qatar was motivated more by politics than operational need during boycotts from Saudi among other neighbours, and the Typhoon would not work well with the rest of its fleet.
They also noted Saudi had been buying arms from other sources than BAE recently.
The analysts predicted delivery rates could fall 50 per cent each year from 20 this year to eleven in 2018 and five in 2019, possibly denting BAE’s revenue by £600million in 2020.
It comes after BAE cut 370 roles from Warton in 2015, and announced around 3,000 job cuts including 843 at Warton in 2011. Sources told Sky News the move was not related to Brexit.
However, last month France and Germany dealt a blow to BAE when they announced plans to develop a new fighter jet to replace the Eurofighter – seen by some as a snub to Britain.
At the time BAE highlighted its role developing a new fighter jet with Turkey.
Britain signed a £100million deal with Turkey in January under which BAE will work with Turkish Aerospace Industries to develop the TF-X Turkish fighter programme.