Ae­rial supremacy Bat­tle for Bri­tain’s £33.5bn de­fence avi­a­tion in­dus­try

The Sunday Telegraph - Money & Business - - Business -

Bri­tain is a global force in the com­bat­air­craft sec­tor, which ac­counts for 85pc of the UK’S de­fence ex­ports. Made up of 2,500 com­pa­nies with rev­enues of £33.5bn, they em­ploy more than 128,000 peo­ple – 26,000 of them in re­search, de­sign and engi­neer­ing po­si­tions.

BAE Sys­tems is the big­gest player in the field, with 55pc of its £19.6bn an­nual sales com­ing from the sec­tor. Al­most half of this is from Typhoon, 20pc from elec­tron­ics, 12pc from Tor­nado, and the F-35 is re­spon­si­ble for 10pc.

En­gine-maker Rolls-royce is an­other ma­jor force, with 15pc of its £15bn an­nual rev­enue com­ing from de­fence avi­a­tion.

Stag­ger­ing as these fig­ures are, they pale when com­pared to the in­dus­try when it was on a war foot­ing from 1939 to 1945, churn­ing out 132,500 air­craft dur­ing the hos­til­i­ties.

The sim­plic­ity of air­craft back then also meant they were faster to de­sign and build. The Typhoon took nearly two decades to go from draw­ing board to first flight. How­ever, the P-51 Mus­tang of the Sec­ond World War – one of the most ad­vanced air­craft of the con­flict – went from a blank sheet, when it was or­dered by Bri­tain in 1940, to pro­to­type in about 100 days.

The em­pha­sis on speed, not com­plex­ity, is also shown by work­ers in a Welsh fac­tory build­ing a Welling­ton bomber in just 24 hours in 1943.

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