Unite the Union, representing over 1.3 million members across various sectors, has submitted a comprehensive response to an inquiry focusing on the future of the UK’s defence aviation capabilities.
The union, which represents a significant number of workers in the UK’s defence sector, has provided detailed insights into the challenges and opportunities presented by the Global Combat Air Programme (GCAP).
“The Combat Air sector in the UK is a vital national asset… playing a critical role in delivering national security,” the union stated, emphasising the sector’s century-long history of technological innovation and its contribution to the military’s ability to deter or overcome threats.
The union welcomed the Combat Air Strategy of 2018 and the launch of Team Tempest, which they believe heralded a new dawn for the sector.
“The Strategy provided a huge boost to the sector through emphasising its importance and delivering a long-term vision,” Unite’s submission reads, highlighting the need for the UK to maintain pace with other major nations.
Unite’s submission outlines the key challenges in delivering GCAP’s aim to deliver a 6th generation combat aircraft by 2035:
Sustained Government Investment: “The Government has to spend money (maintaining a constant drumbeat of funding)… it would be a national disgrace if this spending is not prioritised on national solutions,” Unite insists.
Maintaining UK Sovereignty and Security: The union stresses the importance of investment to “allow industry to plan for the long-term future and give confidence to our international partners that the UK is serious about GCAP.”
Balancing Operational Capabilities: Unite points out that “the two options for the Typhoon replacement are either Tempest or more F35s,” arguing that a combination of both would provide the ideal fit for national defence and economic security.
Retaining Sovereign Capability: The submission highlights the risk of the UK losing its sovereign capability to design and produce its own defence aircraft, stating, “To not do so would mean that the UK would become the only P5 United Nations member without this ability.”
Export Potential and International Relations: Unite believes that maintaining a strong defence aviation sector is key to sustaining UK jobs and building international relations and influence.
Long-term Industry Planning: The union calls for “continuing to invest in Typhoon up until it leaves service to ensure it meets the military need while also maintaining valuable skills in the workforce, which will then be exploited on Tempest.”
Unite’s submission to the inquiry is a clear call to action for the UK government to ensure that the defence aviation sector continues to thrive.