Britain signs £300m missile deal with MBDA

Britain signs £300m missile deal with MBDA
British will sign a contract worth over £300 million ($462.39 million) with defense giant MBDA that will provide the Royal Air Force (RAF) with weapons for its Typhoon fighter jet, Defence Secretary Michael Fallon announced on Wednesday.

The eight-year contract will provide 200 skilled jobs across the UK, said Fallon, with a further 200 supported in wider industry.

The announcement comes as campaign groups including Amnesty International and graffiti artist Banksy protested against the arms fair currently taking place in East London.

Fallon said the missile deal was thanks a bolstered defense budget.

“ASRAAM missiles provide our Typhoon jets with battle-winning technology on combat missions, and these upgrades will help to make it a missile for the future, ready for use on our new Lightning II aircraft.

“This contract is part of our £160 billion [US$247 billion] equipment plan, supported by a rising Defence budget. It will sustain hundreds of skilled British jobs and ensure that the RAF continues to perform at its very best,” he added.

Chief of Materiel (Air) at the Ministry of Defence (MoD)’s Defence Equipment and Support organization, Air Marshal Simon Bollom, further said the deal presented the most cost effective way of maintaining the aircraft.

Sustainment of the UK’s short range air-to-air capability is essential as it supports standing operational commitments such as the protection of UK airspace and any other air defense roles.

“The contract provides the most cost-effective way of maintaining this capability and allows what is a very effective missile to be retained whilst ensuring continued compatibility with the aircraft we launch it from,” he said.

British arms deals have been under scrutiny this week as protesters mounted a campaign against the Defence & Security Equipment International (DSEI) 2015 event taking place at London’s ExCel center.

The fair is hosting more than 1,500 arms exhibitors from across the globe, including nine companies which have been in breach of UK law, Amnesty International says.

The event features stalls from arms giants Lockheed Martin, BAE systems, Finmeccanica and others.

Groups including Campaign Against the Arms Trade (CAAT) also protested outside the venue last week with banners and placards.

CAAT’s Andrew Smith called the UK arms trade “shameful.”

“The government is not a neutral observer in the arms trade, it is an active participant and is central to events like DSEI. The overwhelming majority of people across the UK oppose the government selling arms to human right abusers, and yet the vast majority of arms sales are to war zones, authoritarian regimes and dictatorships.

“It is shameful that the government is welcoming arms dealers and despots with open arms at the same time as it is turning away refugees who are fleeing the kind of wars and insecurity that are fueled by the arms trade,” Smith said.