Friday, 4 July 2014

UK Government sat on their hands instead of chasing F35 sales

Despite the fact that the Belgian Government has expressed interest in potentially purchasing between 33 and 55 F-35 Joint Strike Fighters to replace their aging F-16 fleet, the Government has publicly stated that they have no plans to meet with any Belgian counterparts. I believe this is wrong and bad for Lancashire – the UK’s defence manufacturing heartland.

The statement came in response to a Parliamentary Question to the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills. This laid back attitude to defence export risks us missing out on thousands of jobs across Lancashire, millions in investment and turnover, as well as the high-tech skills and training which accompany this kind of manufacturing.

The Government should be knocking on the door of every responsible Belgian official, doing everything they possibly can to secure a contract and the procurement of F-35s for the Belgian air force.

As BAE Systems stated earlier this year when they released the 150th aircraft set, if they are able to continue to supply aircraft at the rate they have done for the past 10 years, this will sustain their 1000+ workforce, as well as the thousands of jobs across the 500 British-based companies which form the supply chain – many of which are based in Lancashire.

However, things are not always rosy and in the past there has been the risk of job cuts if demand falls.

Government inaction risks a repeat of what happened in India this year, when the Indian Government decided to purchase 126 Rafale jets from French company Dassault Aviation instead of the technically superior F-35 from the UK. I believe that had the Government pushed harder for F-35, and any competent , we could have secured new jobs and millions in turnover for Lancashire.

The Government needs to get a grip, get on a plane to Brussels and make the case for the F-35 and the manufacturing quality coming out of Lancashire.