BAE Systems, Britain’s biggest defence contractor, has agreed a £5bn contract to supply 24 Typhoon fighter jets to Qatar.
The deal, which includes a support and training package, comes two months after the FTSE 100 company said it would be axing 2,000 jobs to streamline the business with a renewed focus on technology.
It also includes an intention for Qatar to buy further military equipment from Britain, namely Hawk aircraft.
About 5,000 workers in the UK are employed on building the Typhoon, mainly at Warton in Lancashire.
The company said the deal would not mean a reversal of the planned job cuts across its operations in Lancashire, Yorkshire, Portsmouth, Guildford and overseas during the next three years.
“We have around 5,000 UK employees manufacturing and supporting these brilliant aircraft, as well as many hundreds of companies in the supply chain. Securing this contract enables us to safeguard Typhoon production well into the next decade,” BAE Systems said.
“The difficult decisions we have taken are necessary to better balance our workforce with our workload and ensure we have a sustainable and competitive business for the long term. We don’t take these decisions lightly – and as you’d expect we did take this potential order into account when reviewing our production needs for the future.”
The deal was signed by Defence Secretary Gavin Williamson and his Qatari counterpart Khalid bin Mohammed al Attiyah.
A statement from Qatar’s armed forces said the two ministers also signed an “agreement for building up a Joint Operational Squadron” between the two countries’ air forces to provide security during the 2022 football World Cup, which the Gulf state is hosting.
Mr Williamson said the contract was the biggest export agreement for the Typhoon in a decade and would “boost the Qatari military’s mission to tackle the challenges we both share in the Middle East”.
He added: “As we proudly fly the flag for our world-leading aerospace sector all over the globe this news is a massive vote of confidence, supporting thousands of British jobs and injecting billions into our economy.”
Charles Woodburn, BAE Systems chief executive, said: “We are delighted to begin a new chapter in the development of a long-term relationship with the State of Qatar and the Qatar armed forces, and we look forward to working alongside our customer as they continue to develop their military capability.
“This agreement is a strong endorsement of Typhoon’s leading capabilities and underlines BAE Systems’ long track record of working in successful partnership with our customers.”
Qatar is the ninth country to sign a deal for Typhoon jets, with delivery expected to commence in late 2022.
The announcement comes as the Government searches for major global trade deals amid Britain’s withdrawal from the European Union.
Last week Prime Minister Theresa May struck a deal with Brussels after the first phase of Brexit negotiations, in the hope of talks progressing on to trade.