£200m upgrade for Marham war planes
A £200m deal to upgrade Norfolk-based British war planes for missions in Iraq and Afghanistan was confirmed by defence bosses on Monday.The contract will see 96 RAF Tornados based at RAF Marham given an equipment upgrade costing in excess of £200m.
A £200m deal to upgrade Norfolk-based British war planes for missions in Iraq and Afghanistan was confirmed by defence bosses on Monday.
The contract will see 96 RAF Tornados based at RAF Marham given an equipment upgrade costing in excess of £200m.
This will make the site a major maintenance and upgrade site for the RAF and will see its future and BAE's presence there secured, amidst Ministry of Defence (MoD) cutbacks elsewhere.
It is part of a £350m package seeing the RAF's Tornado GR4s and Harriers upgraded for missions in Iraq and Afghanistan, the MoD revealed.
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The combined costs of the two programmes, including life support, is more than £500m.
The contract, believed to have been signed late in December last year, was announced in a written statement to Parliament.
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Defence minister for equipment and support, Baroness Ann Taylor of Bolton, said: “Tornados and Harriers are providing an outstanding job supporting our troops on the ground in Iraq and Afghanistan.
“This contract with BAE Systems will provide our Tornado and Harrier jets with state-of-the-art equipment that will significantly improve their ability to communicate with each other and assist operations on the ground.”
The upgrades will make ground to air communication secure, vital in current war zones like Iraq and Afghanistan. And it will equip the aircraft with precision guided bombing systems
The new systems will be designed and tested at BAE's site in Warton, Lancashire, before being fitted on aircraft at RAF Marham.
Although it is extra work, it will be carried out at the same time as routine maintenance, also carried out by BAE through another multi-million pound contract, a BAE spokesman said, which will make the process more efficient.
BAE will first kit out one plane to the specification agreed.
This will then be tested by the RAF before the rest of the planes are upgraded.
A statement from BAE said the upgrades would “significantly enhance” the plane's capability and help sustain its position as an aircraft 'of choice for offensive air operations'.
The last upgrade took place between 1996 and 2003, also by BAE. Although there are 137 Tornados in the RAF fleet, 26 of those are training aircraft and others are in storage, so just 96 are being upgraded.
The Tornado first entered service in 1979. Previous estimates for its “out of service” date has been 2025.
The planned upgrades for the Harriers will take place at RAF Cottesmore, in Rutland.