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