A cash investment of more than £1bn in the UK’s defence capability has spurred hopes that the Welsh economy and defence sector will also receive a boost.
David Cameron yesterday used a visit to Farnborough International Airshow to announce funding worth £1.1bn, including £800m in an “intelligence, surveillance, target acquisition and reconnaissance package” intended to extend the reach of the UK’s special forces.
Vale of Glamorgan Conservative MP Alun Cairns was confident this would result in investment coming to St Athan. Last year it was announced St Athan would become the new base of the Royal Signals.
Mr Cairns said: “It’s clear that we’re starting to reap the rewards of the difficult decisions that have been taken and additional investment in the MoD is welcome, particularly when it has a direct impact on the operations in Wales and specifically at St Athan. The special forces are set to receive an additional investment which, most importantly, is needed for the UK’s defence but hopefully it will be a significant injection in cash into the Vale of Glamorgan.
“This will be of benefit not only to the local economy but a significant boost to South Wales.”
The funding package is also widely expected to involve investment in drones, or unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs). Aberporth’s West Wales UAV Centre is a major centre for the development of the technology, but it is not yet known if it will benefit as a result of the new funding.
There will also be funding for next generation radars for Typhoon combat jets.
A Welsh Government spokesman said: “Defence is a key sector for the Welsh economy with an estimated 6,500 employees including major companies such as QinetiQ, General Dynamics, Airbus Defence, Raytheon and BAE Systems. We therefore have a comprehensive strategy and dedicated team in place to maximise the economic benefits from the industry.
“We welcome the fact that over 70% of the announced funding is allocated to developing the UK’s ISTAR capability as Wales has key strengths and unique test and evaluation facilities in the field of Remotely Piloted Aircraft Systems and associated technologies which are increasingly deployed in ISTAR related programmes.”
Mr Cameron said the funding was “to help keep our country safe and stop terrorism at source”.
He said defence nowadays was “not about battle tanks in central Europe” but about “modern threats”. The money had become available, he said, because the coalition government was able to “close the black hole in the defence budget that it had inherited”.
He added: “There are threats that you cannot defend against from the White Cliffs of Dover.”
The PM boarded an Airbus A350 aircraft that will come into service with Qatar Airways. British Airways’ parent company announced it was converting 20 Airbus A320 options into a firm order.
In the Commons, Defence Secretary Philip Hammond told MPs Britain will not set the agenda for the forthcoming Nato summit but would “pick up the bill”.
Labour MP Gisela Stuart urged Mr Hammond to reconsider his views on making the minimum 2% of GDP spending on defence a statutory requirement as he “finalised” the agenda for the summit, taking place at the Celtic Manor Resort on September 4 and 5.
Mr Hammond quipped: “It is not for the UK to set the agenda for the Nato summit – that is for Nato as an organisation. We merely host it and pick up the bill for doing so.”
The Defence Secretary added: “There is a discussion ongoing among the European Nato partner nations about how we respond to the perfectly fair challenge that the United States has set us by asking the question: why should US taxpayers be prepared to pay for a defence of Europe that European taxpayers appear to be rather reluctant to pay for?”
Sourced from Walesonline