The Rolls-Royce plant in Patchway is set to benefit from a Government U-turn on a major defence project.
The Ministry of Defence has changed it mind over the type of fighter planes it is ordering for the Royal Navy’s new aircraft carrier, saying it wants to revert to its original plan of deploying the F35-B jump jet version of the Joint Strike Fighter (JSF), the engines for which incorporate key components made in Patchway.
The previous Labour Government’s original plans for the aircraft carrier project included the F35-B version but the Coalition Government’s defence spending review in 2010 concluded that the ‘conventional take off’ F35-C version would be a better choice.
The decision was justified by the F35-C’s longer operational range and the fact that fitting the aircraft carrier with catapults and arrestor gear would allow interoperability with aircraft from other nations.
But the estimated cost of fitting the “cats and traps” system has risen from £950m to £2bn “with no guarantee that it will not rise further”, according to Defence Secreatry Philip Hammond – speaking in The House of Commons yesterday.
Because of the development problems, it will now be cheaper in the long term to order F35-B jump jets, as originally planned, he added.
The U-turn is likely to mean more work for the Patchway Rolls-Royce factory, which specialises in short take-off and vertical landing (STOVL) technology, including the LiftSystem propulsion system that is a principal component of the F35-B design.
The Patchway factory is already committed to work on hundreds of LiftSystem units for aircraft ordered by US defence forces.
The Government estimates the U-turn will cost taxpayers around £100m but Labour puts the figure at nearer £250m.
Read more: Jet fighter U-turn is boost for Rolls-Royce (The Post)