District Council in support of the Minister for Defence Procurement announcement
Released On 26th Sep 2017
South Somerset District Council has welcomed the decision made last week by Harriett Baldwin, Minister for Defence Procurement, which announced that work on the AW159 Wildcat helicopter produced by Leonardo Helicopters will continue in the UK at their Yeovil facility.
The District Council has made strong representations to the Government on the importance of maintaining investment in the rotorcraft capability of the area in its submission to the Government’s Industrial Strategy Green Paper. It has also been lobbying Government Ministers such as The Rt Hon Michael Fallon, Secretary of State for Defence to help ensure that the future of the UK helicopter development and manufacturing industry is secure.
Options had been considered to relocate the fabrication work for future AW159 helicopters orders – the export version of the Wildcat helicopters already in service with the British Army and Royal Navy – overseas.
After careful joint analysis with the Ministry of Defence, Leonardo Helicopters in Yeovil has confirmed that it will carry out all future fabrication for the AW159 helicopter in the UK, with much of this work being undertaken at its Somerset facility – an agreement that will sustain 40 highly skilled jobs across the UK-based supply chain.
Leonardo (formerly Augusta Westland) is the UK’s only helicopter manufacturer and has been based in Yeovil since the 1940s. Over the past 70 years it has supplied the UK military of all 3 Services with helicopters covering a range of disciplines from advanced anti-submarine warfare through logistic support to close combat on the battlefield.
Councillor Ric Pallister, Leader of South Somerset District Council said, “I am delighted that a critical first success has been achieved in helping to secure the long term future of a critical employer to South Somerset and the wider south west. By all working together; MPs, County Council, District Council and regional key players we have achieved this small, but vital, commitment to the UK Helicopter business.
“Now the hard work begins in ensuring that the UK protects its long term future ability to design and build next generation rotary wing aircraft especially as the UK heads towards an exit from the EU. In fighting for the future we will all be seeking to influence Government as part of its future Industrial Strategy for the UK as well as seeking to protect our local economy.”
Aerospace activities in Somerset are part of a globally significant South West aerospace cluster and contributes £300 million a year to the local economy.