British Minister for Defence Procurement, Harriett Baldwin, announced on 25 July that future fabrication work for the AW159 helicopter – the export version of the WILDCAT already in British service – will remain in the UK. An option to relocate production overseas has been under consideration for some time, but joint analysis by the Ministry of Defence (MoD) and manufacturer Leonardo Helicopters has resulted in an agreement to keep fabrication facilities open at the company’s Yeovil plant.
“This work has not only helped sustain 40 highly skilled jobs within the UK, but will act as a positive boost for the company and, through improved cost-effectiveness, their export customers,” the Minister stated.
WILDCAT is a highly versatile aircraft that forms the core of the UK’s frigate/destroyer aviation capability; the Army variant performs reconnaissance, C2, force protection and transport roles in a wide variety of environments.
In 2006 the MoD bought a number of specialised jigs and tooling under the WILDCAT (Then known as FUTURE LYNX) demonstration and manufacturing contract. These essential parts are used to ensure airframe alignment, mould, patterns and manufacturing tools and gauges and will now be used by Leonardo to carry out the fabrication work in the UK. The MoD’s continuing commitment to the WILDCAT was also highlighted earlier this year when a £271 million five-year deal was signed to deliver a range of support and training services for the UK’s entire fleet of 62 aircraft, securing 500 jobs at Leonardo’s facilities in Yeovil and Royal Naval Air Station Yeovilton.