A £30 million contract, spread across 3 years to build prototype combat aircraft will create 100 new jobs in Belfast.

The aircraft will be unmanned and designed to fly at high speed alongside manned fighter jets. The prototypes will be armed with missiles, state of the art surveillance technology and electronic warfare technology. The new aircraft has been nicknamed the “loyal wingman”.

Spirit AeroSystems, based in Belfast, will lead the development team in the next phase of the project. The team will further develop the RAF’s Lightweight Affordable Novel Combat Aircraft (LANCA) concept, with a full-scale vehicle flight-test programme expected by the end of 2023.

The Ministry for Defence have said the Loyal Wingman will be the UK’s first uncrewed aircraft which will have the capabilities to target and shoot down enemy aircraft and survive against surface-to-air missiles.

A visualisation of the ‘loyal wingman’.

Northern Ireland Secretary of State Brandon Lewis welcomed the news saying “This is fantastic news and underlines the distinct strengths in Northern Ireland’s economy, through its advanced engineering and manufacturing capabilities.”

“This ground-breaking project will involve significant investment which will not only support local employment, but also reinforce Northern Ireland’s contribution to the security of our nation.”

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