BAE in the lead for £7bn US Air Force jet deal

BRITISH defence giant BAE Systems said yesterday that it is the frontrunner in the race to win a $11bn (£7.1bn) to provide trainer jets to the United States Air Force (USAF).

“The USAF has a requirement to replace their aging training aircraft and we believe Hawk, as world’s most successful and affordable jet trainer, is best placed to meet their needs,” a spokesman for the company told City A.M.

Although the contract would benefit British-based staff it is understood that political constraints mean that the majority of manufacturing work would be undertaken in the US.

The firm is confident that it can face down opposition from American rival Lockheed Martin to provide 350 trainer aircraft, in part because the USAF is seeking a tried-and-tested replacement for its ageing fleet of T-38 airplanes. Over 900 Hawks have been sold since the model first entered services with the in 1976.

The USAF is expected to make a decision by 2014, with the first aircraft due for delivery in 2020.

BAE is facing a difficult period as domestic defence cuts bite and it becomes increasingly reliant on overseas orders. It appears to have missed out on a £7bn contract to provide fight jets to India but is hoping to conclude a $2bn deal with Oman for 12 Typhoon aircraft.

In late May the firm sealed a £1.6bn deal to supply Saudi Arabia with Hawk jets, including 22 new Hawk advanced jet trainer aircraft, which will be made in UK, and 55 Swiss made Pilatus turboprop aircraft as well as training equipment and other support services.

Meanwhile yesterday’s Sunday Times reported that the firm is planning to close Glasgow’s historic Govan shipyard and its Portsmouth dockyard after a drop in naval orders.

“We continue to work closely with the Ministry of Defence to explore all possible options to determine how best to sustain the capability to deliver complex warships in the UK in the future,” the firm said in response.