Construction has begun on a multi-million pound manufacturing site in Sheffield which will produce 8,000 parts a year for the growing aviation industry.
Boeing is investing around £40m in locating the company’s first European manufacturing facility on Sheffield Business Park. Boeing Sheffield will form part of the company’s global network of commercial aeroplanes fabrication sites and will produce actuation components for the next-generation 737, 737 MAX and 777 aircraft.
The 6,200 sq metre facility will manufacture spur gears, shafts and housings from materials that are sourced in the UK, using many regional suppliers. In total, around 8,000 parts will be manufacturing a year and these components will be shipped to Boeing Portland for the next stage of the process before being fitted onto the aircrafts.
The site will open in late 2018, with approximately 30 employees on the first day of operations. There are 19 apprentices already assigned to the new site.
A shipbuilding strategy, to be unveiled by the Ministry of Defence, will cap the cost of five new war ships at no more than £250m each.
Crucially it will also open the way for the ships—lightweight Type 31e frigates to be constructed in sections by different companies across the UK, and assembled at a central hub. This contrasts with the current position, under which BAE enjoys a monopoly on complex warship building in Britain.
Michael Fallon, defence secretary, said the change in approach outlined in the new shipbuilding strategy would “lead to more cutting-edge ships for the growing Royal Navy that will be designed to maximise exports and be attractive to navies around the world”.
One government official said the plans represented “a nail in the coffin” for BAE’s dominance of naval shipbuilding. However, critics have said that increasing competition could push up costs by reducing economies of scale.
The new government strategy follows a report last November by John Parker, the industrialist, in which he criticised the complexity of procurement of ships and “unanticipated cost growth” from suppliers.
The £250m cap on each Type 31e frigate is significantly less than the average cost of £375m for each corvette made by shipbuilders for export over the past decade, according to Francis Tusa, editor of Defence Analysis, a newsletter.
In total the UK is committed to having at least 19 frigates and destroyers, which form the backbone of the naval fleet.
The first Type 31e frigate is due to be in service by 2023, following Sir John’s recommendation that the ships should be ready “as early as possible in the 2020s”.
The “e” in the name refers to inbuilt export potential.
The defence ministry has already commissioned eight Type 26 frigates from BAE, at a cost of £3.7bn for the first three.