MoD strikes £271m Wildcat helicopter deal saving "hundreds of jobs"

Rebecca Smith
The Wildcat helicopter
The Wildcat helicopter "delivers a key capability" for the Royal Navy and Army (Source: MOD)

The Ministry of Defence (MoD) has announced a £271m deal with Leonardo Helicopters to safeguard around five hundred jobs, the majority of which will be in Yeovil.

The five-year deal will deliver a range of support and training services for the UK's fleet of 62 AW159 Wildcat helicopters, used by the Royal Navy and Army Air Corps.

The MoD said "the overwhelming majority" - over 80 per cent - of the 500 jobs sustained, will be at Leonardo's facilities in Yeovil and Royal Naval Air Station Yeovilton, which is the home of Wildcat training and maintenance in the UK.

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Another 100 jobs will be maintained in Leonardo's supply chain.

Minister for defence procurement, Harriett Baldwin, said: "This Wildcat deal delivers a key capability for the Royal Navy and Army, and supports vital high-skilled jobs in Somerset, where there's a proud tradition of supporting UK helicopter operations."

She added that the Wildcat was "one of the world's most advanced helicopters" and an important part of the government's ten-year £178bn plan to "provide our Armed Forces with the equipment they deserve".

The new Wildcat support and training contract will also support jobs in Edinburgh and Luton, where Leonardo manufactures defensive aids systems, as well as Crawley.

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Late last year, GKN said it would close a plant making helicopter components, after Leonardo said it had planned to take production back in-house, meaning over 200 jobs were on the chopping block.

Leonardo is owned by Italy's Finemccanica, which bought Britain's only helicopter business Westland from GKN back in 2004 for £1bn.

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