Dec. 31--The American defence and aerospace firms Boeing and Lockheed Martin are poised to ramp up their British operations next year as squeezed military budgets force the US giants to look overseas to drive growth.
The pair, which already have sizeable operations in Britain, told the Mail they planned to grow again in 2014 as they focus both on expanding their existing contracts supporting UK armed forces and branching out into previously untapped areas.
Boeing UK boss Sir Roger Bone said the company was 'in growth mode', having operated here for more than 75 years.
In the past year it has grown staff numbers to 1,500 from 1,300 in 2012 and is expected to continue hiring in 2014.
The group's UK presence has been boosted recently by the Ministry of Defence outsourcing contracts for maintenance and servicing of Boeing-made aircraft. These include the RAF's C-17 Globemaster transport aeroplane and Chinook twin-rotor battlefield helicopters.
A 10-year logistics IT contract worth pounds sterling 700m recently saw more than 230 MoD personnel transfer to Boeing UK. Besides its defence work, Boeing is best known in Britain for its airliners, including the 787 Dreamliner. The plastic passenger jet was dogged by a troubled launch, but is a big contributor to UK plc. Around 25pc of the Dreamliner's components are sourced in Britain, with many made by small to medium-sized manufacturers.
'We are heavily dependent on the supply chain in the UK,' Bone said. 'Around $1.2bn (pounds sterling 726m) of work was sourced in the UK for both defence and commercial aircraft divisions last year. The health of the supply chain here is critically important.'
Based in London with pounds sterling 1bn of annual sales last year and operating from 17 sites, Lockheed Martin UK has also been expanding.
Chief executive Stephen Ball said: 'We have grown our UK footprint by around 20pc in 2013.'
The company has made a series of small acquisitions and is now keen to win contracts in related business areas, using technologies originally developed for the military.
Lockheed Martin, prime contractor for the next-generation F-35 jet fighter that will enter service with the Royal Air Force and Royal Navy, established a separate British business in 1999 and now employs more than 2,000 people.
It also supports the C-130 Hercules transport aircraft and is one of two partners in the Ascent joint venture with Babcock, which trains British military pilots.
Independent defence analyst Howard Wheeldon said: 'From a standing start, Lockheed Martin has grown fast in the UK over the past 14 years through a mix of acquisition and organic-based growth.
'Efficient, compact and extremely well run... I suspect that there will be more interesting growth-based announcements to emerge as management continues to unfold its interesting growth strategy.'
Copyright 2013 - Daily Mail, London
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