New combat aircraft developed by Luton defence firm 'could bring £1.1bn' to eastern region's economy

A new combat aircraft being developed by a Luton defence firm could contribute as much as £1.1bn to the local economy, it is claimed.

Tuesday, 25th May 2021, 2:51 pm
Updated Tuesday, 25th May 2021, 3:41 pm
Luton defence firm Leonardo is one of four partners in the Team Tempest project

Defence firm Leonardo UK is one of four partners in the Team Tempest project - which aims to create the next generation model of combat aircraft.

The firm, based on Capability Green, employs 1,000 people in Luton and has an extensive British supply chain.

A report published today by independent analysts PricewaterhouseCoopers (PwC) claims that the new aircraft project will bring benefits of around £1.1bn to the economy in the East of England.

The project is also expected to support a minimum of 22,000 jobs, while boosting investment in areas of technology in which the region is a world leader, including electronic warfare.

A Leonardo UK spokesman said: "Investment from Tempest will ensure that highly-skilled research, development and manufacturing jobs stay in the UK for years to come.

"The UK’s combat air sector is vital to the national economy. With a turnover of some 6 billion pounds every year, it accounts for more than 80% of Britain’s defence exports.

"Today, the most ambitious and exciting project in combat air is Tempest, which is due to fly into action in 2035."

Leonardo UK is one of four partners in Team Tempest, along with MBDA - based in Stevenage, and international partners BAE Systems and Rolls Royce.

Leonardo also manufactures advanced electronics for combat aircraft such as the RAF’s Eurofighter Typhoon.

MBDA’s site in Stevenage is its head office and base for a workforce of around 3,000, with many of the highly skilled staffed there involved in the company’s cutting-edge science and technology research.

Both companies are looking to grow their local workforces in order to deliver the Tempest project, potentially through to 2080 and beyond.

Norman Bone, Leonardo UK chair and managing director, said “Tempest is great news for UK engineering. It’s an amazing career opportunity for current and future employees in all of the companies involved, directly and through the supply chain.

"It will be a beacon of inspiration for young people considering whether to study maths, science and coding; and who could go on to be part of the next generation of British engineering talent.”

Team Tempest partners are already looking to expand their relationships with universities such as Cranfield in Bedford. Here, work is underway to create a new Master’s degree in Applied Artificial Intelligence, ensuring training and qualification paths exist for young peple.

The Tempest partners already have a STEM (science, technology, engineering and mathematics) outreach programme for local schools. They intend to draw on the Tempest project to engage young people in careers that rely on the study of STEM subjects.