British Aerospace industry

British Aerospace industry

General statistics:

According to the SBAC ("Society of British Aerospace Companies") the UK aerospace industry is the largest in Europe and the second largest in the world [] . It encompasses many British and international companies with a UK presence. The biggest British companies in the aerospace sector are BAE Systems, Rolls-Royce, GKN, AgustaWestland, GE Aviation Systems and QinetiQ. Foreign companies with large UK presences in the aerospace sector are EADS, Finmeccanica and Thales.


Pre-World War 2 period

1939 - 1945

* 1943 First flight De Havilland Vampire
* 1945 First flight Avro Lincoln

1945 - 1949

* 1946 First flight Westland Wyvern
* 1947 First flight De Havilland Venom
* 1948 First flight Supermarine Swift
* 1949 First flight Avro Shackleton
* 1949 First flight Vickers Varsity
* 1949 First Flight Avro 707

1950 - 1959

* 1950 First flight Hawker Hunter
* 1950 First flight Hawker P.1072
* 1950 First flight Boulton Paul P.111
* 1950 First flight Percival Provost
* 1951 First flight Gloster Javelin
* 1951 First flight De Havilland Sea Vixen
* 1951 First flight Vickers Valiant
* 1951 First flight Handley Page HP.88
* 1952 First flight Short SB5
* 1952 First flight Avro Vulcan
* 1952 First flight Handley Page Victor
* 1954 First flight Fairey Delta 2
* 1954 First flight English Electric Lightning
* 1954 First flight BAC Jet Provost
* 1955 First flight Folland Gnat
* 1957 First flight Saunders-Roe SR.53
* 1958 First flight Blackburn Buccaneer

1960 - 1969

* 1960 First flight Hawker P.1127
* 1962 First flight Bristol 188
* 1964 First flight Hawker Siddeley Kestrel
* 1964 First flight BAC TSR-2
* 1967 First flight Hawker Siddeley Harrier
* 1967 First flight BAC Strikemaster
* 1967 First flight Hawker Siddeley Nimrod
* 1967 First flight Handley Page Jetstream
* 1968 First flight SEPECAT Jaguar
* 1969 First flight BAC/Aerospatiale Concorde

1970 - 1979

* 1971 First flight Westland Lynx
* 1972 First flight Airbus A300
* 1974 First flight Panavia Tornado
* 1974 First flight BAE Hawk
* 1979 First flight Panavia Tornado ADV
* 1979 First flight Westland 30

1980 - 1989

* 1982 First flight Airbus A310
* 1986 First flight EAP
* 1986 First flight BAE Hawk 200
* 1987 First flight EH101
* 1987 First flight Airbus A320
* 1988 First flight Sea Harrier FA2

1990 - 1999

* 1991 First flight Airbus A340
* 1992 First flight Airbus A330
* 1993 Begin of development of BAE Replica stealth mock up
* 1994 First flight Eurofighter Typhoon
* 1996 BAE joins Lockheed Martin JSF team
* 1999 Merger between British Aerospace and GEC Marconi

2000 - 2007

* 2002 Begin of UAV development at BAE Systems
* 2004 First flight BAE HERTI
* 2007 First flight US101
* 2005 First flight Airbus A380

See "Current developments" below for details of programmes in this period.

Current developments

This is a small overview of current programmes in which the UK aerospace industry has a significant interest.

Manned military aircraft development and construction

*Eurofighter Typhoon

The British aerospace industry has a 37.5% share in the production of the Eurofighter Typhoon and a 33% share in the development of the aircraft. The main participants here are BAE Systems and Rolls-Royce and the current order book stands at 707 aeroplanes [] .

*BAE Hawk

The Hawk is one of the best known advanced jet trainers in the world and has generated billions of pounds in exports for the British aerospace industry, here again BAE Systems and Rolls-Royce are the two main participants and so far over 900 Hawks have been sold. The latest variant is the "AJT" version, or "Advanced Jet Trainer" [] .

*BAE Nimrod MRA4

The BAE Nimrod MRA4 is a programme that started in the mid 1990s and currently three prototypes are undergoing flight testing. The first flight was in August 2004 [] . The "in-service-date" has slipped considerably and is currently planned for 2009. The Royal Air Force has ordered 12 planes.

*F35 Lightning II

UK industry has a workshare of about 20% in the F35 Lightning II and has two companies in "Team JSF", BAE Systems and Rolls-Royce.BAE Systems designed and produces the aft fuselage, fuel system, horizontal and vertical stabilizers among other things. Rolls-Royce has a 40% workshare in the F136 alternative F35 Lightning II engine and provides the Liftfan for all F35Bs [$file/BAEInvolvementChart_DEC2005.pdf] .

*Airbus A400M

The UK is buying 25 A400Ms and thus has a workshare roughly equivalent to its share of procurement which equates to about 14%. Due to traditional Airbus roles Airbus UK developed the wings for the A400M and outsourced some of the manufacturing, however the final assembly takes place in Filton [] .

Military and civilian UAVs and UCAVs

*BAE Taranis

This is a UCAV programme largely funded by the British government. Its aim is to fly by 2010 and thus inform the Royal Air Force about future UCAV operations. Final assembly will take place in Warton. Flight testing will probably occur in Australia.


HERTI on the other hand is an autonomous utility UAV that has first flown in 2004 and is aimed at the near term military and commercial markets for UAVs, unlike the Taranis, the HERTI will likely go into production as a first production variant has been developed and should be delivered to BAE Systems by end of November 2007.

*QinetiQ Zephyr UAV

A UAV that recently set up the unofficial world endurance record for UAVs. The longest flight of this UAV, according to QinetiQ, was 54 hours and thus the longest UAV flight ever. However because no official representation was present the flight is not an official record [] .

*Thales UK/Elbit Systems Watchkeeper UAV

The Watchkeeper programme is worth about 700 million pounds and is currently the largest UAV programme in Europe. The Israeli company Elbit provided the basic airframe design from which Thales UK derived the Watchkeeper. These UAVs are being built in Leicester with subsystems being sourced from throughout the United Kingdom and also beyond. Next to the United Kingdom, Israel has a significant workshare in this programme.

*Selex S&AS UAVs

Selex S&AS has developed a whole range of small battlefield UAVs such as the Strix, Otus and ASIO. Most of these have been developed in collaboration with Italian companies.


*AgustaWestland EH101

Developed from the WG.34 of Westland Helicopters this project quickly turned into a collaboration with Italy as both countries realised they had similar requirements. In 1979 a joint company was set up and development commenced. Since 2004 Agusta and Westland are a single merged company and the EH101 has been renamed AW101. So far nine countries have ordered about 180 helicotpers.

*AgustaWestland Future Lynx and AgustaWestland Super Lynx

The Super Lynx and the Future Lynx are developments of the basic Westland Lynx which has seen tremendous international success with more than 400 Lynx helicopters sold so far. The Super Lynx has seen considerable success with Oman, Malaysia, Thailand, South Africa and Algeria ordering the Super Lynx 300 in recent times. The United Kingdom ordered the development of the Future Lynx helicopters and the delivery of 70 helicopters (with 10 additional options) in a one billion pound contract in 2006. First flight is anticipated for 2009.

*AgustaWestland AW149

In mid 2006 AgustaWestland confirmed that the Yeovil factory will take the lead in the development of this new helicopter, which is largely based on the AgustaWestland AW139.

Civil aircraft development and construction

*A380, A350 XWB, A340, A330 and A320 family

The A380 is the largest civil passenger plane in production. Its order book stands are nearly 200 aircraft and the wings were developed and are being built in the UK. Rolls-Royce offers its Trent 900 for the A380 and has so far secured 61% of the market based on operator decisions [] . Iain Gray, former Airbus UK managing director once said that an Airbus A380 with Rolls-Royce engines had a UK content of about 40-50% [] .

The A350 XWB is the Airbus answer to the Boeing 787 and has so far achieved close to 400 orders. The aircraft's wings are being developed at Filton and the final assembly of these will take place at Broughton. Rolls-Royce is currently the only engine supplier to the A350 XWB with the Trent XWB.

*Hawker 800XP

The Airbus plant in Broughton builds the fuselage and wings for the Hawker 800XP variant. This work employs about 450 people at the plant in North Wales.

*Bombardier Aerospace business jet and regional jet families

The Northern Irish facilities of Bombardier play an important role in nearly every Bombardier aircraft programme. The most notable are the production of the fuselage for the Learjet 40 and Learjet 45, the production of the centre fuselage for the Challenger 300 and other programmes [] . For the newly proposed C-Series Belfast is planned to design and produce the wings, rear fuselage and nacelles [] .

Civil and military engines


Rolls-Royce has a 33% share in the development of the EJ200 engine for the Eurofighter Typhoon and a 36% share in the manufacture of this turbofan engine. The EJ200 is based on the XG.40 engine research programme carried out by Rolls-Royce and the UK MoD in the 1980s.


Rolls-Royce has a 40% workshare in the F136, the alternative engine for the F35 Lightning II. The work is led by the Rolls-Royce facility in Bristol with large packages of work being carried out in Indianapolis, USA.

*RRTM Adour MK951

The Adour is a British-French codevelopment for the Jaguar and later adopted for the Hawk trainer jet. Rolls-Royce has a 50% workshare in the Adour and the remaining final assembly line is in Bristol, United Kingdom.

*Europrop International TP400-D6

Rolls-Royce has a 25% workshare in the TP400D-6. Its work includes final assembly, the high pressure compressor, the low pressure shaft, the intermediate case and the bearing support structure. However much of this work is carried out in Germany, such as the final assembly, because Rolls-Royce has a larger workshare in relation to the UK aircraft purchase, the solution is that Rolls-Royce Deutschland does some of the work and thus can claim a part of the German workshare in the aircraft.

*Rolls-Royce Liftfan

This is the STOVL component for the F35B. It is entirely developed and produced by Rolls-Royce. As with the Rolls-Royce share in the F136 the Liftfan development is led by the company's Bristol facility with considerable input from the Indianapolis offices.

*Trent 500/Trent 700/Trent 800/Trent 900/Trent 1000/Trent XWB

The Trent XWB is the newest Rolls-Royce engine of the Trent series. It will power the A350 XWB and has currently achieved 800 orders.The Trent 1000 is the launch engine for all variants of the B787 and by November 2007 over 600 Trent 1000s have been ordered by 19 airlines. This gives the Trent 1000 a market share of slightly more than 40% [] . The Trent 900 is Rolls-Royce's offering for the Airbus A380 and it has achieved a workshare of more than 50% against the Engine Alliance GP7200. The Trent 800 is offered on the B777 and the Trent 700 is offered on the A330 where it has achieved very large success. The Trent 500 is the only engine offered for the A340-500 and A340-600 and thus has achieved to win 100% of the market. All Trents are developed, produced and final assembled in the United Kingdom. In November 2007 Rolls-Royce declared that it will build a new factory in Singapore to final assemble some of the Trent XWBs and Trent 1000s, this is a factory in addition to the Derby factory which will remain centre of excellence for large engines.

*RB211-524 and RB211-535

This engine is supplied by Rolls-Royce for the Boeing 747. It formed the basis for the development of the Trent engine series. The Rb211-535 is supplied for the Boeing 757 and Boeing 767.


The RB282 is an engine developed by Rolls-Royce to power the new Dassault super midsize business jet. In November 2007 Rolls-Royce announced that the RB282 would be developed and tested in newly completed facilities in Bristol. Its production however would take place in Virginia [] .


Rolls-Royce is a major stakeholder in the IAE V2500 with a 32.5% workshare. Whilst the Rolls-Royce final assembly for this engine has been shifted from Derby to Germany, the British part of Rolls-Royce still manfacture a large degree of the engine.

*EFE - Environmentally Friendly Aero Engine

This 95 million pound programme is carried out by Rolls-Royce and a first engine run is planned for 2008. Its aim is to prepare the UK industry for future engine programmes and from a technical perspective its aims are a 10% reduction in carbon dioxide emissions and a 60% reduction in NOx emissions [] .

*UAV engines

UAV Engines Limited (UEL) a British company owned by Elbit of Israel is one of the largest suppliers of UAV engines in the world. Their engines ranging from 20hp to 120hp are installed on 25 different UAV systems [] . It will provide the engine for the British Army's Watchkeeper UAV.



The UK is the largest partner in the development of the European long range air-to-air missile.


This air-to-ground missile was developed by MBDA in cooperation with Boeing.

*Storm Shadow

This British-French missile family to which the Scalp EG and the Black Shaheen count is a long range stand off cruise missile.


A short range air-to-air missile developed by MBDA and sold to the UK and Australia. Saudi-Arabia is a likely new customer after their purchase of Eurofighter Typhoons.

*Starstreak I

Originally developed by Shorts Missile Systems, it is now an integral part of the offerings of Thales UK.

*Starstreak II

A new development by Thales UK, using the Starstreak I as a basis for development. first trials have been successful.



This is the main Eurofighter radar. It has been developed and is being produced by the EuroRADAR consortium, a joint venture of major European radar houses. The UK contribution comes mainly from Selex S&AS, the former Ferranti. The CAPTOR is based on the Blue Vixen radar of the Sea Harrier FA2.


This is the AESA variant of the CAPTOR radar. It first flew in early 2006 on a BAC1-11 and has since then also flown on a Eurofighter development aircraft. According to reports it has about 1400 T/R modules.

*Searchwater 2000

This radar, developed by Thales UK, is the main search radar for the Nimrod MRA4 programme. The AEW variant is fitted to the UK's Sea King AsaC helicopters that operate from the Invincible class aircraft carriers.

*Seaspray 5000E, Seaspray 7000E and Seaspray 7500E

The Seaspray family of AESA radars has found widespread use in various applications. The Seapray 7000E has been selected for the Future Lynx and the Seaspray 7500E has been selected by the United States Coast Guard for its C130s. The range for these radars is given as more than 100 nautical miles for the Seaspray 5000E [] , 200 nautical miles [] for the Seaspray 7000E and 320 nautical miles for the Seaspray 7500E [] .


This is a small AESA radar developed by Selex S&AS for small lightweight fighter aircraft. It is currently under development and has so far no customers. It has approximately 500 T/R modules. There is also a variant with 750 T/R modules under development. The range of the Vixen 500E is given as 35 nautical miles [] .


The Picosar radar is a very small AESA radar with a range of about 20 kilometres and a weight of around 10 kilogramms [] . Its market is mainly seen as a cheap, small radar for UAVs.


*Galileo satellite navigation system

The European Galileo system that is supposed to rival the American GPS system is supported by the United Kingdom and its industry has a significant workshare in the development of the system.

*Disaster Monitoring Constellation

A five satellite constellation with the first satellite being launched in 2002 to monitor disasters around the globe. Every satellite has been funded by a different country and SSTL has built and operates them. Currently there are another three satellites under construction, one for Nigeria, one for the UK and one for Spain [] .

*Astrium satellite business

Major participants


AgustaWestland is an international helicopter manufacturer owned by Finmeccanica of Italy. In the United Kingdom the company had one factory in Yeovil employing more than 4000 people [] . Its main products with a large British content are the EH101, the Super Lynx, the Future Lynx, the AW139 and the AW149.


Airbus is one of the two dominant civil aircraft manufacturers in the world. In the UK the company, owned by EADS has two main plants, one at Filton in the city of Bristol and one at Broughton in Wales. There is also a small development centre in the midlands, that opened in 2006 [] .Overall Airbus employs 13000 people in the UK with estimates claiming that it supports another 140000 people [] in the wider UK economy. The traditional UK workshare in Airbus is around 20% and this has been confirmed in the recent Power 8 restructuring. It was however also decided that 1600 jobs would go at Airbus UK, in a Europe wide cutback of back office staff, and that the manufacturing part of the Filton plant would be sold. The Broughton plant was confirmed as the continuing centre of excellence for wing assembly and integration whilst the Filton plant will remain the development centre for wings. The Broughton plant also builds the fuselage and wings of the Hawker 800XP [] .

Main locations:
* Filton
* Broughton
* East Midlands development centre


Astrium is a European satellite maker, owned by EADS. The UK branch of Astrium employs about 2200 people and has large sites in Stevenage, Portsmouth and Poynton [] .

Main locations:


*BAE Systems

BAE Systems is the largest defence company in Europe. It employs 36400 people in the UK [] . The largest aerospace related locations of BAE Systems are Warton, Samlesbury, Brough and Woodford. The final assembly line for the British Eurofighter Typhoons, a collaborative European programme, is located at Warton. All flight test activity for manned aircraft is undertaken from Warton, which is also the development centre within BAE Systems for UAVs, UCAVs and the Saudi Tornado upgrade programme. Samlesbury is the production hub of the Military Air Solutions division of BAE Systems. Here, components for the Eurofighter Typhoon, the F35 Lightning II, the Hawk, UAVs, UCAVs and Airbus aircraft get built. At Brough, the BAE Hawk gets produced and final assembled, flight tests are done at Warton. Finally Woodford is the home of the Nimrod MRA4 programme, with the final assembly line located there. Overall Military Air Solution has 14000 employees spread across eight sites in the United Kingdom [] .

Main locations:


*Britten Norman Group

The Britten Norman Group, sometimes referred to as BN Group, is a small company with about 100 employees. It is best known for its design of rugged transport aircraft such as the Islander [] , Trislander and Defender 4000. To reduce costs the company resident on the Isle of Wight does not perform manufacture of the airframes anymore, but has outsourced this to Romania. However it does perform final assembly of the occasional Defender 4000 and it also is the European hub for the Cirrus SR20 and SR22 final assembly and delivery [] .

*Bombardier UK

The Canadian company Bombardier employs about 5000 people in its aerospace division in the UK. It can trace its roots back to Shorts Brothers in Northern Ireland. The company has significant workshares in most Bombardier aircraft with its specialities being fuselages and nacelles.


This company employs about 10000 people in the UK and elsewhere. Its most important products are refuelling equipment and antennae.

*GE Aviation Systems

Also formerly known as Smiths Aerospace, this division of General Electric has about 10000 employees, half of which work in the UK.

*GKN plc

GKN Aerospace is a division of the British company GKN plc, which employs approximately 5000 people, mainly in the UK and the USA. In the UK its most important facility is on the Isle of Wight where it has a carbon composite centre of excellence. There it designed and produces the composite wing spar for the A400M. The company is also known for producing the cell of the Super Lynx and Future Lynx helicopters. It is the former owner of Westland helicopters.


MBDA is the largest European missile house, owned by BAE Systems (37.5%), EADS (37.5%) and Finmeccanica (25%). It operates across Europe, with main capabilities in the United Kingdom, France, Germany and Italy. In the UK the main sites are Bristol (software and systems) Lostock (production), Stevenage (R&D and integration) and London (management). Modern missile programmes of MBDA with a British input are the ASRAAM, Meteor, Storm Shadow, Rapier, Seawolf and Brimstone among others [] .

Main locations:



QinetiQ is the former DERA, the Defence Evaluation and Research Agency. It has close to 12000 employees and is one of the major players in the British aerospace industry. QinetiQ's main aerospace business relates to satellites, UAVs and reconnaissance systems.


Rolls-Royce plc is the second largest aircraft engine company on earth. Overall it has about 38000 employees of which about 23000 are in the United Kingdom [] . The company's main factories are at Derby and Bristol. In Derby the three shaft Trent engines get developed and produced. The current line up includes the Trent 700 for the Airbus A330, the Trent 900 for the Airbus A380, the Trent 1000 for the Boeing 787 and the Trent XWB for the Airbus A350 XWB among others. In Bristol the company has concentrated its military aerospace business with the British final assembly line for the EJ200 engine for the Eurofighter Typhoon, the only final assembly line for the British-French Adour engine and other programmes such as significant parts of the workshare in the international TP400 turboprop engine for the Airbus A400M and the British-American F136 engine for the F35 Lightning II. Recently Bristol has also been confirmed as the centre for the development and testing of the civil RB282 engine [] , which will however be produced in Virginia.

Main locations:



SSTL stands for Surrey Satellite Technology Limited and is a small satellite development and production company. It has currently has 230 employees and is the world leader in small satellites [] . In its 22 year history it has developed satellites for 27 missions with more to come. The probably best known satellite so far are the two Galileo satellite navigation proofing satellites GIOVE-A and GIOVE-A2. The company is 85% owned by the University of Surrey [] .

*Thales UK

Thales UK has wide ranging capabilities including avionics, UAVs, simulation capabilities and other things.

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