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'We're ready to respond to war footing demands', boss of BAE's warship building programme says

11 April 2024, 08:41

Britain's biggest defence firm is currently building eight Type 26 Frigates for the Royal Navy at its Glasgow shipyard
Britain's biggest defence firm is currently building eight Type 26 Frigates for the Royal Navy at its Glasgow shipyard. Picture: BAE Systems/Handout
Alan Zycinski

By Alan Zycinski

The boss of BAE Systems' warship building programme has told LBC they're 'ready to respond to demands' to be put on a war footing.

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Britain's biggest defence firm is currently building eight Type 26 Frigates for the Royal Navy at its Glasgow shipyard.

They were awarded an initial £3.7billion contract to construct three of the anti-submarine ships in 2017 before ministers signed off on another five for £4.2billion in 2022.

And Sir Simon Lister has said they stand ready to take on as much work from the Ministry of Defence as possible.

BAE hopes a new ship build hall being built as part of a £300million investment in Glasgow will see the Type 26 programme return to its planned schedule.
BAE hopes a new ship build hall being built as part of a £300million investment in Glasgow will see the Type 26 programme return to its planned schedule. Picture: BAE Systems

When asked if he believes Britain should move to war economy footing, as the European Commission proposed the EU did in March, he said: "Well that's very much for the Government to handle.

"We are ready to respond to that if that is what's the Government decides to do.

"And we feel in the shipyard the importance of delivering to schedule as closely as we possibly can the best quality product that the company can produce so that the Navy can do it's job.

"We feel an urgency about that task. That is for certain."

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But Sir Simon also raised concerns around a lack of skilled workers in Britain impacting how much defence firms are able to ramp up production.

He said a shortage is already slowing down their builds in Glasgow, with the first phase currently running around a year behind schedule.

Sir Simon Lister's told us BAE Systems stand ready to take on as much work from the Ministry of Defence as possible
Sir Simon Lister's told us BAE Systems stand ready to take on as much work from the Ministry of Defence as possible. Picture: BAE Systems

"Both of those (Covid and a lack of skilled workers) have been a factor in getting the programme mobilised and up and running.

"Covid's impact is still felt in the yard but we are rapidly getting that behind us.

"In terms of skills, we still have vacancies in the yard. We are keen to fill those and rebuild the workforce both in skills and numbers.

"And to that end we are training a lot of graduates and apprentices every year for the next four or five years to plug that gap.

"Maybe Brexit has had an affect. But there is a global, nation-wide lack of skills in the United Kingdom.

"We are keen to make sure that we give everyone the opportunity to join the yard and develop skills that perhaps they hadn't thought of before. Even later on in their careers to come back and retrain and join this work."

BAE believe a new ship build hall being built as part of a £300million investment in Glasgow will see the Type 26 programme meet its schedule for delivering the second five frigates - allowing for two to be constructed under a roof at the same time.

Its new Applied Shipbuilding Academy also being built in the city will provide training for around 4500 employees including nearly 700 apprentices.

Sir Simon's workforce warning comes as new rules come into force today making it harder for people to get work and family visas for the UK.

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