MoD could withdraw Tornado work from St Athan under logisitics transformation plan

The battle to save the UK Defence Aviation Repair Agency’s (DARA) fast-jet maintenance facility at St Athan in south Wales is entering its final stage, with manufacturing union Amicus warning that the site’s remaining 1,300 jobs could be lost by early 2007 unless the UK Ministry of Defence reverses a decision to partner with industry to provide logistics services.


Already reeling from the loss of work to support the Royal Air Force’s BAE Systems Harrier GR7 ground-attack aircraft, St Athan is facing the prospect of also being denied work on the service’s Panavia Tornado GR4 strike aircraft by no later than 2009. A new, £80 million ($140 million) “super-hangar” intended to conduct maintenance on the GR4 fleet until 2020 was opened at the site in April, but MoD plans to relocate this work to RAF Marham have put the facility’s future in doubt.

Amicus describes the previous transfer of Harrier maintenance to RAF Cottesmore as “privatisation by the back door” and warns that BAE could acquire a monopoly position in supplying fast-jet maintenance, threatening safety. But the MoD last week “utterly refuted” union claims that eight aircraft have been damaged at Cottesmore since the establishment of a BAE/RAF-staffed joint upgrade and maintenance facility last year.

The MoD says it will recover the costs of its partial investment in St Athan by early 2007 through efficiency savings, adding credence to an Amicus suggestion that the GR4 work could be withdrawn by April that year. The union will provide oral evidence to the UK Defence Select Committee on 21 November in a bid to overturn the move.

A decision on St Athan’s future is expected from the MoD in the near future, partly following the results of a Morgan Stanley-conducted review into DARA’s activities. This is also looking at the future of its Fleetlands rotorcraft, Sealand electronics and Almondbank components support facilities.


Source: Flight International