Belfast firm secures £98m defence contract to build missiles which can intercept air threats

A £98.4 million contract, supporting 119 jobs in Northern Ireland, has been extended to maintain Short-Range Air Defence (SHORAD) for the British Army and Royal Marines.

By Jonathan McCambridge
Thursday, 4th March 2021, 11:06 am
Brandon Lewis
Brandon Lewis

SHORAD is made up of High Velocity and Lightweight Multi-role Missile systems that can intercept air threats including fast jets, attack helicopters and unmanned air systems in a matter of seconds.

Thales UK won the initial contract in 2018, helping to modernise and develop the missile systems as part of the Future Air Defence Availability Project (F-ADAPT).

This latest announcement confirms a five-year extension to the contract, sustaining over 100 jobs at Thales UK’s Belfast site and within the wider Northern Ireland supply chain.

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Northern Ireland Secretary, Brandon Lewis said: “Northern Ireland has a proud history as a world leader in defence engineering and innovation.

“Today’s announcement shows again the level of confidence in Northern Ireland as a great place to do business.

“During these uncertain times, I am delighted that the investment of over £98 million will protect over 100 skilled jobs in Belfast. I would like to congratulate all those involved who have secured this vital investment.”

Defence Minister, Jeremy Quin said: “This contract ensures the vital air defence capabilities, capable of dealing with a multitude of threats, are maintained and readily available to deploy.

“The £98.4m investment is the second major contract awarded to Northern Ireland’s defence industry in less than three months highlighting Northern Ireland’s important contribution to the delivery of our critical defence capabilities.”

Delivering rapid potent attack capability, the SHORAD missile systems can be fired from three platform variants.

These include a Shoulder-Launch for single fire; a Lightweight Multiple Launcher capable of firing three missiles via a tripod, and a Self-Propelled launcher designed to fire up to eight missiles from a Stormer armoured vehicle.

DE&S is the procurement arm of the MOD.

DE&S CEO, Sir Simon Bollom said: “Our dedicated team at DE&S has worked closely with industry colleagues to ensure this crucial air defence capability remains primed and ready to support the Armed Forces until the end of 2026.”

This is the second multi-million-pound defence contract awarded to a Northern Ireland-based industry this year. In January, Spirit AeroSystems in Belfast, won a £30 million contract for the UK’s first uncrewed fighter aircraft supporting over 100 local jobs.

John Cunningham, Head Weapons, Evaluation and Capability Assurance (WECA) said: “We are delighted with the award of this innovative £98.4M contract between the UK MOD and Thales.

“It guarantees the British Army and Royal Marines can remain at high readiness to respond to crises around the world, enabled by working directly alongside Defence Industry partners maintaining the availability of these world-leading Short Range Air Defence (SHORAD) capabilities.

“Such a significant investment reinforces our confidence in these systems and demonstrates MOD support to Thales’ ongoing export initiatives.”