1000 jobs safeguarded at AgustaWestland with £760m deal

Helicopter manufacturer AgustaWestland has been awarded two contracts worth £760m by the Ministry of Defence which will secure 1,000 UK jobs.

The deal, which will future-proof the Merlin and Apache fleets of military helicopters at sites in Yeovil, Hampshire and Suffolk.

The figure is made up of 500 in the supply chain, 250 direct contractors and 290 AgustaWestland employees.

The first contract will see the £430m conversion of 25 Merlin helicopters for use by the Royal Navy, while the second, £330m agreement will see the Apache attack helicopter fleet provided with support and maintenance service for the next five years.

On a visit to the company’s Yeovil site, defence secretary Philip Hammond told BBC Breakfast News: “This is a great news story for British engineering.

“It sustains 1,000 high-skilled jobs in the UK economy and ensures the armed forces have the support they need in the helicopter fleet.

“What we have to do is to make sure that we have here in the UK the capabilities we need to sustain our armed forces and to sustain the skills in the industry that keep us competitive in the future.”

The news provides a timely boost for the Anglo-Italian helicopter company, which saw its £466m deal with the Indian government scrapped earlier this month over claims of bribery.

Union Unite had expressed concern over job cuts at the manufacturer, which employs around 3,300 people at its Yeovil production site with an additional 10,000 jobs in its supply chain reliant on the site.

But with the new contracts safeguarding 1,000 jobs, Local MP for Yeovil David Laws described the deal as an “important contract” and “a boost for our local economy and good news for the rest of the UK.”