Mark Menzies calls for full Government air combat strategy support

Fylde MP Mark Menzies has called on the Government to fully support future developments in BAE Systems’ Typhoon programme while a sixth generation combat aircraft is developed.

Mr Menzies spoke in a Combat Air Strategy debate in Parliament.

Speaking about the future of the Typhoon, which is assembled in Warton in Fylde, he said: “I thank the Minister and the Government for a number of announcements in the last couple of years that will enable Typhoon to remain current, but we need to ensure that that remains the case throughout the life of the aircraft.

“The aircraft can then not only adopt current weapon systems but ensure that it incorporates upgrades that will be the prelude to what we will see in sixth-generation aircraft.”

Mr Menzies told MPs BAE Systems’ sixth-generation fighter, dubbed Tempest, had a great deal of its technology from the skilled staff working at the Warton plant.

He added: “Anyone who was at Farnborough last year and saw the mock-up of Tempest could not fail to be impressed. It was an incredible-looking platform, but truly impressive was its capability to be in effect the mother craft, supporting a range of unmanned aerial combat vehicles, to gather data and intelligence and to work in an autonomous way, keeping the pilot safe but still delivering the critical aspects of the mission. A lot of that technology comes out of the Taranis programme, which was also operated out of BAE Systems at Walton.”

Mr Menzies stated the Combat Air Strategy was not only vital for his constituency in Fylde, but also to the whole UK.

He said: “The combat air strategy matters to my constituents at BAE Systems in Warton, to the many who work at Samlesbury and to the colleagues who work over at Brough and build the Hawk, whose final assembly takes place at Warton. It also matters to the RAF, which I have the great pleasure of serving as part of the armed forces parliamentary scheme.

“Above all, the combat air strategy matters to the nation. As has been said by some previous speakers, it is not only about building a platform for defence, but about having the means of sovereign capability where we can invest our research and development across a whole spectrum of areas—everything from avionics to the actual platforms themselves, through to new materials and in-flight systems and IT development. In many of those areas, the United Kingdom is without question a world leader.

“I was thrilled when last year at Farnborough, the Prime Minister — I had the privilege of being there with her — announced the Government’s intention to pursue the combat air strategy. It is good for the Government and the industry that the £2 billion investment has been forthcoming, but considerably more resources will have to flow through.

“In a combat strategy, all the programmes feed into each other; nothing really operates in isolation. I congratulate the Minister and the Government on developing such a strategy. Without it, I am afraid that down the road would be very costly or unacceptable decisions, such as buying off the shelf from countries overseas. Sovereign capability is everything. We must have the ability to design, build and operate in isolation if required, and to invest in jobs, apprenticeships and new technologies. The combat air strategy allows us to do that.”