A £48 million contract for missiles for Royal Navy helicopters has been signed by the Ministry of Defence.
A new £48 million state-of-the-art missile system for Royal Navy helicopters will help win battles, a defence minister has said.
It will be used to target small ships and fast attack craft and be designed and built by Thales UK’s Belfast plant.
Defence Minister Philip Dunne said coastlines represented areas of growing concern to armed forces around the world and this new technology would provide greater protection.
He added: “It will give us cutting-edge, battle-winning capability.”
Victor Chavez, chief executive officer of Thales UK, said the deal, announced today, would produce a versatile, rapidly deployable and highly effective weapon.
“It will protect our ships and sailors and in doing so it will save lives.
“That makes all of us in Thales very proud.”
The Future Anti-Surface Guided Weapons Light programme will equip the Navy’s new Agusta Westland AW159 Wildcat Maritime Attack helicopters, which will be carried on frigate warships, Mr Dunne added.
The laser-guided and precision-strike missile can be fired from land, sea and air and is intended to be used in theatres of war.
A Royal Navy Wildcat can travel at 157 knots and is the latest generation of multi-role helicopter, specifically procured to operate from frigates and destroyers.
Designing and manufacturing Thales’s system in East Belfast will safeguard up to 60 jobs. Some 450 of the company’s 7,500 UK workforce are based at the Belfast site and the firm hopes to export the system worldwide.
Thales is a global technology leader in the aerospace, transportation and defence and security markets. In 2013, the company generated revenues of 14.2 billion euro (£11.3 billion) with 65,000 employees in 56 countries.
The MoD contract follows an award to MBDA in March to provide a joint UK/France heavy anti-surface guided weapons system, which will also be fitted to the Wildcat to defend against larger targets.
Both new weapons will replace the current Sea Skua missile.
Northern Ireland First Minister Peter Robinson said: “The talents of Northern Ireland’s manufacturing and engineering labour force are now held in high esteem across the global aerospace and defence industries and today’s announcement is further evidence of this.”