Leonardo’s buoyant UK helicopter business reveals how it is spending millions with onshore supply chain

Posted on 28 Aug 2023 by The Manufacturer

Leonardo has published figures about supply chain purchases relating to its UK-based helicopter business, which is going from strength to strength on the back of a string of recent domestic and export orders.

Leonardo has published the 2022 supply chain spending figures for its UK-based helicopter business. This highlights the important role the company plays in generating prosperity nationwide through the 750 companies in its supply chain.

With a strong order book for its Yeovil-based business, and as UK MOD and international customers’ demands for the company’s helicopters and the missions they undertake evolve, having an onshore supply chain also allows resilience and flexibility in ensuring customers’ needs are met, whilst retaining high-tech UK skills, research, and intellectual property.

The figures published show:

  • In 2022, Leonardo’s procurement spend in Yeovil was £474m with its UK supply chain
  • This was spent with 665 suppliers
  • Including 25% with 250 small and medium-enterprises (SMEs)
  • Nearly 40% with suppliers located in the 10% most deprived Local Authorities in England, as defined by the UK Government1
  • Leonardo’s UK helicopter business helps sustain around 12,000 British engineering and manufacturing jobs

Leonardo is one of very few organisations in the world, and the only one in the UK, with an end-to-end helicopter manufacturing capability. This means that Leonardo in Yeovil can design, develop, manufacture, test and certify helicopters, in addition to the provision of subsequent training, support, and upgrades for customers.

Businesses from England, Scotland, Wales, and Northern Ireland form Leonardo’s onshore supply chain for its latest-generation helicopters. This geographically diverse industrial base provides resilience to the UK helicopter manufacturing market and consistency in supply, built up over decades of support and long-term relationships.

The breadth and depth of the supply chain covers cutting-edge UK research and manufacturing in defensive aids systems, tactical radars, cockpit display systems, tactical processors through to engineered composite materials and precision machined parts, castings and forgings. Having suppliers across the Union, from Belfast to Edinburgh to Gosport, enables Leonardo to provide the very best products and services to the UK Ministry of Defence and international customers, from Norway to the Republic of South Korea, with the support of a resilient supply chain ecosystem.

Clive Higgins, Chair and CEO of Leonardo UK, said: Maintaining Leonardo’s healthy and productive relationships with all of our suppliers is critical to delivering for our customers. We have an established UK-wide supply chain that we have developed for decades, with our helicopters business supporting the UK economy through £500 million purchases. This translates into jobs and skills staying onshore and is critical for the British Armed Forces, who rely on UK industry to provide high-end capabilities for their battlefield needs.”

In September 2021, Leonardo announced the launch of Team AW149 UK, its onshore supply chain for the AW149 helicopter. Representing towns and cities from across the UK, from South Shields to Devon, each company provides a vital component to the AW149 military helicopter, from lights to avionics systems and other hardware and software components. Team AW149 UK includes some of the leading small- and medium-sized British companies that comprise of over 70-tier one suppliers who will be involved in delivering the AW149 for the UK Armed Forces should Leonardo be selected.

The company has pledged to build the new fleet on a cutting-edge production line in Yeovil, Somerset if chosen by the UK, with between 60-70% of the platform’s content and through-life support being carried out onshore in the UK at Leonardo and through UK suppliers. This would represent an investment in UK skills, design and manufacturing, supporting thousands of jobs, and creating new jobs across the country.

Adam Clarke, Managing Director of Leonardo Helicopters UK, commented: “If successful with the UK New Medium Helicopter competition, Leonardo will build the AW149 in Yeovil to support MOD requirements and we will leverage our established supply chain that is already supporting the existing in-service aircraft. Utilising our supply chain for new programmes provides customers with a resilient, diverse, and robust supply chain ecosystem, which focuses on British businesses.

Leonardo’s eight major sites across the UK each bring investment into the local economy and wider region through strong links with supply chain companies in the surrounding areas.

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