BAE Systems announced on 27th September, 3,000 potential job losses at its sites. Of the total the Preston area includes; 843 at Warton and 565 at Samlesbury, making 1,408 in the area. Worst hit of all the military aircraft sites is Brough in East Yorkshire which is to lose 899 out of a total workforce of around 1,300. As yet no timescales for the rundown are in general circulation.
Warton and Samlesbury are hit by a slowdown in Typhoon deliveries which has been agreed with Germany, Italy and Spain. Also by a slowdown in the build up of the US led programme, the F35.
The Brough site is Hawk related and a union representative said on the BBC that Hawk work will be moved to Warton which they are going to resist. The company has stated it is negotiating ending manufacture at Brough which will leave structural testing at the site.
In the last few years there have been a number of reductions at the Preston area sites. The Jaguar and Harrier taken out of UK service. Nimrod scrapped. Some Tornados mothballed. Previously defence work has been consolidated at Warton as other sites closed and export orders kept the workforce numbers high. As Tornado and Typhoon have peaked and F35 work delayed some reduction seems inevitable.
Yet BAE has often cut numbers locally and sometimes taken them back within a couple of years. Whether this will happen again is questionable although there are a number of potential orders such as Typhoon for India. Also the company declared the job reductions as ‘potential’ so there is perhaps optmistically some scope for movement of staff and new work which may reduce actual redundancies.
For the future the company are working on unmanned aircraft and prototypes have been built. Questions will be asked about what comes after Typhoon and fits above the F35, if anything. The US has long wanted to be the monopoly supplier to Europe’s Air Forces. A ‘super project’ like the F35 ordered by almost every western air force will no doubt be proposed to see off the capability of the UK. Although it might be expected the French will continue their full range of aircraft and air vehicle manufacturing capability and perhaps they are the people to use as an example or logical partner.
Preston isn’t the only area with advanced technology development and manufacturing on these aircraft. The engines, radar, electronics, undercarriage, ejection seats all have major UK development and manufacture and are all assisted by a home market which enables their equipment to be chosen on American and other aircraft. A manufacturer not selected on a home project loses mass and credibility. A long term plan for the industry isn’t visible at this time although this isn’t a new situation with aircraft projects being complex and long term.