Helicopter production saved at Westlands

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Minister for Defence Procurement Harriett Baldwin announced today that work on the AW159 Wildcat helicopter produced by Leonardo Helicopters is to continue in Yeovil for the foreseeable future. Options had been considered to relocate the fabrication work for future AW159 helicopters orders – the export version of the Wildcat helicopters already in service with the British Army and Royal Navy – overseas.

We are told that careful analysis by the Ministry of Defence and Leonardo Helicopters in Yeovil resulted in the decision that all future fabrication for the AW159 helicopter will remain in the UK with much of this work being undertaken at its Somerset facility.

No doubt the fact that the British taxpayer actually owns all the tooling at the former GKN factory on the Westlands site in Yeovil, will have informed the decision. It was always highly dubious that the work could have been carried out offshore without the tacit agreement of the government because of that simple fact.

Yeovil MP Marcus Fysh was naturally delighted by the announcement ‘I have been very impressed in recent months by scale of the MoD’s help with demonstrations of Leonardo’s products for the export market. This is a further example of the deep and positive relationship that exists between MoD and our local helicopter industry. I hope that some of the effects of the work will come to fruition with export orders in the coming months.