MoD pulls £30m unmanned combat aircraft project awarded to Spirit Aero

Spirit AeroSystems initially said the three-year Project Mosquito contract would support 100 jobs in Belfast.

A £30 million UK Government project awarded to Spirit AeroSystems to develop unmanned combat aircraft has been cancelled by the Ministry of Defence (MoD).

Project Mosquito was the first major deal announced by the new US owners of the Bombardier operation in Northern Ireland.

The three-year contract to design and manufacture a prototype alongside Northrop Grumman, was first announced in January 2021.

The MoD said it wanted the unmanned craft, also known in the military as ‘loyal wingmen', to fly at high speed alongside fighter jets, armed with missiles, surveillance and electronic warfare technology.

At that time, Spirit AeroSystems said the project would support more than 100 jobs within its Northern Ireland operation.

But the MoD said that following a review, Project Mosquito will no longer “proceed beyond the design phase”.

It concluded that “more beneficial capability and cost-effectiveness appears achievable through exploration of smaller, less costly, but still highly capable additive capabilities”.

Sir Michael Ryan, chairman of Spirit Aerosystems UK said the loss of the contract would not result in job losses.

“Spirit AeroSystems has a small, highly-skilled, Belfast team supporting Project Mosquito,” he said.

“As it draws to a managed close, those involved are transferring to other commercial, defence, and space programmes within the company.”

Sir Michael, who now holds the title of vice president for European space and defence, and government affairs within the US aerospace group, said Spirit Aero and its partners had “focused on capturing knowledge and generating evidence, within a very challenging timeframe”.

He added: “The team's breadth of industry expertise across advanced composites manufacturing, mission management systems, and avionics and software has contributed to significant insight and substantial savings for the MoD.

“We have no doubt that the accrued learning will continue to deliver benefit for UK defence and we anticipate many opportunities to further develop our relationship with the MoD."

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