Britain’s aerospace industry ended the year with a sigh of relief that the last hurdle facing Eurofighter’s production German parliamentary approval had been crossed. It is now looking to first Eurofighter production contracts this year and a start to the construction of five pre-production aircraft.
Whether the Strategic Defence Review will maintain Britain’s commitment to 232 Eurofighters is another matter. Also, questions over which ‘beyond visual range air-to-air missile’ will equip Eurofighter are now being addressed in two studies by competing teams led by Matra BAe Dynamics and America’s Hughes respectively.
Aerospace is now among the strongest industrial sectors in Britain. Last autumn figures were released showing that aerospace turnover rose by 15% in 1996 to £13.06bn, up on £11.35bn in 1995. Of Britain’s principal industrial sectors, aerospace also had the highest export ratio in 1996. Production for export jumped by 21% from £8bn in 1995 to £9.7bn in 1996. Some 74% of turnover was exported, up from 70% in 1995.
Military aerospace production still leads the UK industry’s output, the split being 56% military to 44% civil. Even greater improvements in the Airbus and Rolls-Royce sales records could tip the balance around 2000, though the prospect of further Hawk jet trainer/light fighter contracts and the first RAF Eurofighter orders could postpone that.
The objective of an even better civil/military balance in the industry’s output will be aided by the expected confirmation of the launch of the long-range 313-seat A340-500 and 380-seat A340-600 airliners.