First surfacing on Friday 23 September 2011 and therefore most likely submerged in the Eurozone crisis and its repercussions, BAE Systems is expected to announce some 3,000 redundancies in the very near future, thereby reducing its military aircraft division to some 11,000 staff. The axe is expected to fall particularly severely at the company's Warton and Brough bases.
Warton lies to the west of Preston, Lancashire and is the home of BAE Systems Military Air Solutions. In a past life, Warton was both a base for the United States Air Force and an RAF base and its 1.5 mile runway made it an ideal testing site for BAE's Panavia Tornado and, most recently, Eurofighter Typhoon. BAE made Warton the final assembly site for the Typhoon.
The site was also the developmental flying base for the Nimrod MRA4 (Maritime Reconnaissance and Attack) aircraft, the advancement of which was curtailed by the newly elected Coalition Government in their Strategic Defence and Security Review of 2010.
Brough is a small town of some 7,000 people about 12 miles west of Hull. BAE Systems in Brough (also with a runway) manufactures the Hawk advanced Jet Trainer aircraft. On completion of a Hawk Trainer's construction, the plane takes off for Warton where it undergoes final flight testing and painting. Until 2010, Brough was one of the sites of manufacture of the Nimrod MRA4 so job losses at this plant, though no less worrying, may not be so unexpected.
Both BAE sites are important training centres for industrial apprenticeships.
It is little surprise to learn that the unions over the weekend have already called for urgent talks with the company and want any redundancies to be voluntary.
The London Evening Standard on 25 September quoted Unite national officer Ian Waddell saying:
"These job losses will be a hammer blow to the UK defence industry, which is already reeling with the consequences of the Government's 'buy off the shelf' policy."
GMB national officer Keith Hazlewood said that he was shocked at the scale of the job cuts and "...This is a devastating blow for the communities, for the aerospace sector and for UK manufacturing."
The London Evening Standard article also quoted Shadow Defence Secretary Jim Murphy as saying how vital the role of the defence industry is to the UK and our frontline servicemen, adding: (for bare-faced cheek): "Labour's industrial strategy has been replaced with this Government's deficit reduction plan and as a result, both our industrial base and our equipment programme are being lost"
Was that the same strategy that saw a greater loss of manufacturing jobs under the previous administration than they care to remember and a greater dependency on The City as a tax source, Jim? Not to mention the small matter of an accountancy problem of some £38 billion in the Defence field? Memories are short!
Scotland's Daily Record (left of centre) probably gets to the heart of the matter - after all, no company losses skilled staff by choice. The paper surmises:
"BAE are worried about the time it could take to secure export orders for the Eurofighter Typhoon as orders from partner nations, including the UK, are slow amid defence cuts."
A realistic analysis and one that allows hope for better times in the future.