£93m missile project secures 100 Belfast jobs at Thales

The Thales plant in Belfast has a long history as a supplier to the Army and a worldwide reputation
The Thales plant in Belfast has a long history as a supplier to the Army and a worldwide reputation

More than 100 jobs at east Belfast defence firm Thales have been secured with the announcement of a £93 million deal from the Ministry of Defence.

The contract will see the French owned business, formerly Shorts Missiles Systems, take part in the Future Air Defence Availability Project (F-ADAPT) to modernise and boost the British Army and Royal Marines’ very short-range air defence capability.

The deal was awarded to Thales UK during a visit to Belfast by Defence Minister Stuart Andrew.

“Defence investment benefits every corner of our United Kingdom and Northern Ireland is no exception,” he said.

“This £93 million deal will secure over 100 local jobs and demonstrates the ingenuity and skill of Northern Irish industry.

“In these uncertain times, it is crucial we protect ourselves from the rapidly evolving spectrum of global threats,” he added.

“These cutting-edge missile systems will fortify our military advantage over adversaries and help protect UK Armed Forces across the world and into the next decade.”

The project will enhance the High Velocity and Lightweight Multi-role Missile systems which are designed to intercept a wide range of air and surface threats such as enemy drones, helicopters and armoured vehicles. The upgrades include thermal imaging which ensures the High Velocity Missile system can be used 24 hours a day and ‘Friend or Foe’ identification, which will maximise intelligence on potential threats and targets.

Thales in Belfast is a world leader in the design and development of light weight weapon systems for tactical air, land and sea platforms. The company has over 500 local employees and has secured contracts worth hundreds of millions from the Ministry of Defence in recent years.

East Belfast MP Gavin Robinson, a member of the Defence Select Committee in the House of Commons welcomed the announcement.

“This is a hugely significant order for Thales and is a huge vote of confidence in its operation here in Northern Ireland, and particularly the local workforce.

“The company has placed a great deal of emphasis in its ground-breaking product development and workforce training and this has clearly been recognised by the MoD.

“The Aerospace, Defence and Security Industry, which is the leading trade organisation for companies in this field has 27 such firms based within East Belfast. Thales are one of those companies making a huge contribution to the local economy and the firm is world-renowned as a specialist in this segment of the defence market.

The F-ADAPT, secured by the MOD’s procurement agency Defence Equipment and Support (DE&S), will ensure that this capability is maintained during peacetime training but can also be rapidly deployed for operations into the 2020s, said DE&S director weapons, Richard Smart.

“The F-ADAPT is crucial in safeguarding our Very Short-Range Air Defence capability and the team at DE&S has worked collaboratively with industry to deliver the enhancements needed to ensure this project continues to support our troops for years to come.”