BAE Systems: from defence heavyweight to “junior partner”?
Britain’s largest defence supplier is axing around 2,000 jobs amid “a slowdown in orders for its flagship Typhoon fighter jet”, said Tom Rees in The Daily Telegraph. Unions reacted with horror, but shareholders were unmoved by the news. The job losses – double the expected number, with the bulk coming from BAE’S Warton plant in Preston, Lancashire – are aimed at giving the FTSE 100 company “a sharper competitive edge”, according to its new boss, Charles Woodburn. The restructuring won’t affect BAE’S secondbiggest operating country, the US.
The latest setback to the Eurofighter Typhoon came in August, when a big “follow-up order from Saudi Arabia” failed to materialise, said Marcus Leroux in The Times. Yet the fighter has been steadily losing altitude to rivals built by France’s Dassault Aviation and America’s Lockheed Martin. The job cuts reflect the Typhoon’s “relative maturity”, but the Unite union, which is threatening strike action, warned that Britain’s capability to make its own fighter jets could be “lost for a generation”. BAE is also working on Lockheed Martin’s F-35 jet – but only as a “junior partner”.
The threat of mass redundancies at a flagship manufacturer like BAE is “a significant blow” to the Government’s new industrial strategy, said Peggy Hollinger in the FT. It doesn’t say much either for the Department for International Trade’s efforts to drum up export orders for the Typhoon, said The Guardian – despite its “shamelessly cosy” relationship with BAE and other big defence outfits. Recently obtained figures show that 15 of the 30 business executives seconded to work at the DIT since its founding last year have links to the defence industry. When it comes to British jobs, they don’t seem to be pulling their weight.
Typhoon: sales are losing altitude