August 23, 2005

Rolls Royce win defence contract while workers strike on union dismissal

by brian_turner

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Aerospace company Rolls-Royce has secured a £1.3bn contract to develop engines for the next generation of US stealth fighters. The company will collaborate with US peer General Electric for the US government contract that is expected to run until 2013.

The deal will be welcomed by the 200 workers who have been involved in early development work on the F136 engine for the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter.

The news of the contract coincides with the first official strike at Rolls-Royce for 20 years. Workers at the company’s Bristol plant walked out following the dismissal of union official, Jerry Hicks, over misconduct claims. An employment tribunal provisionally found he had “probably been dismissed on trade union grounds”.

The stealth contract is the second involving Lockheed Martin’s F-35 Joint Strike Fighter. Pratt & Whitney secured development work on an F135 engine for the plane. Pratt & Whitney engines will power the F-35 until 2012. GE Aircraft Engines and Rolls-Royce will then compete with Pratt & Whitney for engine placement contracts.

F-35 production is expected to total 6,000 over the next 30 years and include a long-term replacement for the UK’s Harrier and Sea Harrier.

The project, which also involves BAE Systems, will be led by Lockheed Martin. It will replace several aircraft including the F-16 and F/A-18. A prototype of the plane has been produced and the first jets will go into service in two year’s time.

GE holds a 60% stake in the programme and Rolls-Royce will also carry out work on the contract at GE’s plant in Indianapolis.

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