Small firms play­ing a huge role in UK de­fence

Western Daily Press (Saturday) - - News - RICHARD BACHE [email protected]­plc.com

TO­DAY is Small Busi­ness Sat­ur­day where Christ­mas shop­pers are re­minded of the im­por­tance of sup­port­ing smaller in­de­pen­dent busi­nesses in­stead of multi­na­tional chains or dig­i­tal gi­ants like Ama­zon.

And one ‘shop­per’ that is al­ways after the very lat­est tech­nol­ogy and ex­ceed­ingly ex­pen­sive ‘toys’ is keen to point out that it, too, sup­ports small Bri­tish busi­nesses.

The Min­istry of De­fence spends bil­lions of pounds each year on ac­quir­ing and de­vel­op­ing equip­ment and weapons for the Armed Forces.

A sub­stan­tial el­e­ment of its pro­cure­ment is co-or­di­nated from Abbey Wood, near Bris­tol.

It has in the past faced crit­i­cism for equip­ment over­spends that would put the credit card bill of even the most spend­thrift of fes­tive shop­pers to shame.

And like that shop­per with a taste for big brand de­signer la­bels, its habit of buy­ing big-ticket Amer­i­can items has oc­ca­sion­ally sparked up­set.

But, it says, some of those pur­chases that are seem­ingly Amer­i­can have numer­ous Bri­tish parts and sys­tems em­bed­ded in them.

A num­ber of West aerospace busi­nesses are in­volved in one of the Armed Forces’ big­gest projects, the F-35 stealth air­craft.

One of them is Tewkes­bury-based Ex­cep­tion PCB, which man­u­fac­tures parts in Glouces­ter­shire for the high­tech Lock­heed Martin air­craft.

Its 107 em­ploy­ees man­u­fac­tured the cir­cuit boards that con­trol many of the F-35’s core ca­pa­bil­i­ties, in­clud­ing its en­gines, light­ing, fuel and nav­i­ga­tion sys­tems.

De­fence Sec­re­tary Gavin Wil­liamson said small firms from ev­ery part of the UK had played a piv­otal role in re­cent projects, in­clud­ing build­ing the UK’s game-chang­ing F-35 fighter jets and de­liv­er­ing the Royal Navy’s largest-ever war­ships, the Queen El­iz­a­beth car­rier class pro­gramme.

He said: “Small busi­nesses across the UK are a vi­tal cog in the de­fence sup­ply chain, from fit­ting gal­leys in New­cas­tle to build­ing cir­cuit boards in Glouces­ter­shire and train­ing vet­er­ans in Wilt­shire. They bring in­no­va­tion, unique ex­per­tise and a com­pet­i­tive edge to the de­fence in­dus­try.

“And with start-ups run by for­mer ser­vice per­son­nel and man­u­fac­tur­ers mak­ing the most of our vet­er­ans’ unique knowl­edge, our na­tion’s econ­omy as a whole is feel­ing the ben­e­fit of our Armed Forces’ ex­per­tise and train­ing.

“I would like to thank ev­ery small busi­ness in the coun­try who has in­vested hun­dreds of hours of their time, their con­sid­er­able skills and ex­per­tise in sup­port of our Armed Forces.”

An­other West firm in­volved in the Queen El­iz­a­beth-class air­craft car­rier project is Wilt­shire-based Wad­worth.

The De­vizes-brewer is in­stalling a bar on the car­rier, which will stock Wilt­shire beer.

We’ll cer­tainly raise a glass to Small Busi­ness Sat­ur­day.

They bring in­no­va­tion, unique ex­per­tise and a com­pet­i­tive edge to the de­fence in­dus­try GAVIN WIL­LIAMSON

Photo: Joe Gid­dens

A num­ber of West Coun­try firms are in­volved in the F-35 stealth air­craft project

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