To ask the Secretary of State for Defence, what steps he is taking to ensure that the UK has the capacity to manufacture (a) parts for and (b) whole manned and unmanned fighter aircraft.
The Defence Aerospace and the Combat Air sector make a strategically important contribution to securing our military operational advantage and freedom of action, developing high-end technologies and a skilled workforce, and generates revenues and international influence through exports. UK industry leads the world in a number of technology, design and manufacturing capability areas, and maintaining those capabilities is in our national interest.
In the Strategic Defence and Security Review 2015 we launched the Future Combat Air System Technology Initiative (FCAS TI) which is sustaining our design engineering capacity and skills, ensuring that the UK continues to be at the cutting edge of combat air technology. This includes our cooperation with France to design and build an Unmanned Combat Air Vehicle Demonstrator.
Our investment in the F-35 programme has secured 15% workshare (by value) of every F-35 to be built in the global programme of 3,000 aircraft, sustaining high-end manufacturing capabilities, skills and capacity as well as providing enduring economic benefit. In addition, from early 2018 North Wales will be home to a global hub, providing maintenance, repair, overhaul and upgrade services for F-35 avionic and aircraft components. Over the lifetime of the programme, the components for hundreds of European-based F-35 aircraft will be serviced and maintained at the site. Similarly our acquisition of, and success in exporting, Typhoon aircraft has provided a considerable manufacturing workload, particularly in the North West of England.
The Ministry of Defence is considering our future combat air capability requirements and the best approach to delivering the UK's operational needs as well as maintaining our leading role in the combat air sector. This will involve detailed consideration of the industrial, prosperity, international and financial implications as well as a clear military requirement.