Prime Minister pledges Lancashire jobs boost as part of defence review
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His trip to the county came just hours before the defence secretary and Wyre and Preston North MP, Ben Wallace, was due to set out further detail of the UK’s plan to harness high-tech kit to help it combat threats from around the world in the decades to come.
That strategy will incorporate projects such as Tempest - currently in development in Warton - which is billed as a “future combat air system”.
Mr. Johnson said the programme will create 46,000 jobs, “many of them in Lancashire”.
However, it is widely expected that troop numbers could be up to 10,000 - which would bring the total UK fighting force down to around 72,000 personnel.
“We’re taking some tough decisions and expensive decisions. We have got to modernise our armed forces and that means investing in twenty-first century technology - we can’t just keep the same old kit, we have to take a hyper-leap forward.
“You have to take account of [the] growing vulnerabilities of certain types of technology...and you have to make sure our equipment is fit for the future.
“That means you have got to have stuff that is AI-capable, capable of being unmanned if necessary, and all sorts of stuff that we are doing now that will enable us to fight the wars of the future,” Mr. Johnson told reporters at the BAE factory.
He was speaking shortly after being shown the advanced processes that will be used to bring Tempest to life.
These include specialist “additive manufacturing” processes purported to reduce both cost and build times.
The Prime Minister was shown how the lead-in time for some large structural parts could be reduced from 100 weeks to 100 days when compared to traditional methods of production - enabling engineers to react to any changes in design.
The company also showed off its “cobots” - collaborative robots - which can work autonomously or by acting as “a third hand” for human operatives
Some of the other kit on display was revealed to have movement sensitivity equivalent to the third of the width of a human hair.
The government announced a £16.5bn capital investment in defence last year.
The PM said during this trip to Lancashire that £6.6bn was being spent on research and development alone as part of Tempest.
Built around a fighter bomber jet that can be flown without a pilot in the cockpit, Tempest is due to come into service in 2035 - just as the current generation of Typhoon aircraft are phased out.