Small firms playing a huge role in UK defence
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
A number of West Country firms are involved in the F-35 stealth aircraft project