Trade Minister welcomes Thales jobs boost

Sir Reg Empey MLA, Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Investment, has welcomed the announcement by the Minister of Defence Procurement that a consortium including Thales Air Defence in Belfast had been chosen as preferred supplier for a new £400 million defence programme.

The Thales share of the contract is worth around £70 million and will result in the creation of up to 80 jobs in Northern Ireland. Thales' joint bid led by Swedish contractor Saab Bofors Dynamics will see the production of between 80,000 to 100,000 'fire and forget' Next Generation Light Anti-Armour Weapons (NLAW) for the British and Swedish military. According to Sir Reg, there will also be "significant export opportunities" arising out of the deal.

The minister said: “This is a strategically important contract that will consolidate the global status of Thales as a market leader in defence technology. Significant export opportunities are likely to result from this decision."

The missiles will be assembled in Northern Ireland using capabilities gained from similar missile programmes such as Starstreak, Hellfire and VT1 and will result in more than 500 high quality, long-term jobs throughout the UK.

“The consortium’s choice of Thales in Belfast for such a pivotal role in the programme is a massive endorsement of the hi-tech skills and experience to be found here," said Sir Reg. "It strengthens the position and standing of the Belfast plant as an international centre of excellence in sophisticated defence technology. Key programmes such as this have also an important impact on R&D levels, offer high value job opportunities and provide spin-off business for smaller suppliers.”

The contract, which has been awarded to 15 companies throughout the UK, will see infantry regiments such as the Royal Marines and the RAF Regiment equipped with the weapon which is capable of destroying battle tanks, armoured vehicles and even buildings. The missiles are expected to enter service by 2006-07.


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