AN announcement on who will take over BAE’s ship hall in the city’s naval base will be made ‘very soon’, the defence secretary said at the unveiling of a £270m torpedo contract.
Michael Fallon, formerly minister of Portsmouth, was announcing the government had made a 10-year agreement with BAE Systems to upgrade its Spearheard Heavyweight torpedoes at the company’s Broad Oak base in Hilsea – a deal revealed in The News yesterday.
Mr Fallon said the new occupier of the hall, which BAE Systems will leave at the end of this month, will be made shortly.
He said: ‘We have had over 30 expressions of interest and we have got that down to the last two or three bids now, and I hope to make an announcement very soon but we are keeping to our timetable.’
Mr Fallon added: ‘I have confirmed a £270m upgrade to the Spearfish torpedo, which will serve the Royal Navy for the next 40 to 50 years.
‘This is a hugely important investment in the navy and also in Portsmouth where it will enhance and preserve highly-skilled jobs.
‘We could have placed this overseas but we have replaced it with BAE. That is a vote of confidence in British industry and an endorsement for the skills we have in Portsmouth.’
Rear admiral Alex Burton, assistant chief of naval staff, ships and submarines, said: ‘What’s important is that it is in the UK and it’s great news it is near the naval base in Portsmouth but most important is the fact it is being retained in the UK.’
John Hudson, managing director at BAE Systems Maritime, said the company is ‘absolutely delighted’ to have secured the contract.
He said: ‘The fact the defence secretary has come here is great.
‘It is very important for us. This will secure 100 technical jobs and we can recruit 40 or so more people to help with this programme.
‘Our business developed this weapon. It has been in service for 20 years now.’
The torpedo, said to be the fastest in the world, was previously built in Waterlooville. It was introduced into the Royal Navy in 1994.
The contract means the existing torpedoes can be updated and made into an even more effective weapon.
Mr Hudson continued: ‘Torpedoes have to be lethal, but they also have to be safe while they are on the submarine. This contract will enable us to make them both more lethal and safer.’
City’s minister says announcement is ‘really exciting’
THE minister for Portsmouth has described the announcement of a £270m torpedo renewal contract as ‘really exciting’.
Matthew Hancock, who became the city’s minister in July, said: ‘Portsmouth has a proud history in defence and this huge contract is a really exciting new chapter in that story.
‘It is further evidence of the government’s commitment to Portsmouth’s key role in defence – building on the £600m contract to run the naval base, the £100m of infrastructure work to prepare for the aircraft carriers and the new cutting edge centre for research.’