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UK Wildcat Helicopter Support Deal Signed

British Army Wildcat during Exercise TJ15 in Portugal [© Bob Morrison]

The UK Ministry of Defence has today announced the signing of a £271 million deal with Leonardo Helicopters to continue to support Wildcat helicopters, safeguarding hundreds of high-skilled British jobs, through the following communiqué:- 

The overwhelming majority (over eighty per cent) of the c. 500 jobs sustained will be at Leonardo’s facilities in Yeovil and Royal Naval Air Station Yeovilton, the home of Wildcat training and maintenance in the UK.  A further hundred jobs will be maintained in Leonardo’s supply chain.

Wildcat is a highly versatile aircraft, capable of a wide a range of tasks over land and sea. The Royal Navy’s maritime Wildcat forms the core of the UK’s Frigate and Destroyer aviation capability and performs tasks including Anti-Surface and Submarine Warfare, force protection, transport and the vital information, surveillance, target acquisition, and reconnaissance (ISTAR) role. Similarly, the Army variant performs reconnaissance, command and control, force protection, and transport roles in a wide variety of environments.

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.

“Wildcat is one of the world’s most advanced helicopters and an important part of the Government’s ten-year £178 billion plan to provide our Armed Forces with the equipment they deserve.”

The five-year deal will deliver a range of support and training services for the UK’s entire fleet of 62 AW159 Wildcat helicopters, currently in service with the Royal Navy and Army Air Corps. Wildcat operators include 825 and 847 Naval Air Squadron and 652 and 661 Squadron Army Air Corps.

The new Wildcat Integrated Support and Training (WIST) contract will also support jobs in Edinburgh and Luton, where Leonardo manufacture defensive aids systems, and Crawley, where subcontractor Thales UK provide support to communication and aircraft management systems.

Chief Executive Officer for the UK’s Defence Equipment and Support (DE&S) Organisation, Tony Douglas, said:
“This agreement builds on many decades of joint working between the MOD and Leonardo helicopters, recently recognised through the signature of a Strategic Partnering Arrangement with the company. The deal for Wildcat support has been designed to guarantee value for money for the taxpayer by delivering the required levels of operational output at a reduced cost.

British Army Wildcat supporting an amphibious exercise in Cornwall [© Bob Morrison]

“Wildcat is a world-leading aircraft perfectly suited to operations on board the Royal Navy’s front line warships such as the Type 23 Frigate, Type 45 Destroyer and Type 26 Global Combat Ship and in delivering the British Army’s airborne battlefield tasks, such as reconnaissance, command and control and force protection. Advanced design and capabilities will enable it to support the Royal Navy and British Army for decades to come.”

The WIST deal, which confirms the terms for the next five-year period of the 30-year contract signed in 2012, supports the objectives of the Strategic Partnering Arrangement signed between Leonardo Helicopters and the MOD in 2016. This agreement lays out shared commitments to cost effectiveness and the pursuit of export opportunities.

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