200 jobs set for Newbridge firm in £4 billion tank contract
AROUND 200 jobs will be created in Gwent as the valleys plant of a US defence firm yesterday celebrated winning a £4 billion contract to provide the British Army with its next generation of armoured vehicles.
General Dynamics UK, which has a factory in Newbridge, was chosen by the Ministry of Defence to supply almost 600 tanks to the Armed Forces over the next 15 years.
Around 400 employees at the Gwent site gathered to hear the company’s president, Dr Sandy Wilson, announce the contract yesterday - greeting it with cheers and applause.
Dr Wilson said: “This is a great day for General Dynamics, South Wales and the Army.”
The plant currently employs 850 people and, as well as creating 200 new jobs, the contract will safeguard a further 250 and also secure or create more than 10,600 jobs across the UK.
General Dynamics beat off competition from BAE Systems to win the contract, under which it will produce the ASCOD SV.
The new tank will replace the Scimitar scout vehicle, which the Army has used for over 40 years, and provide troops with better protection and firepower.
It will be equipped with the latest digital systems and armour.
Lance Corporal Marc Andrews, 31, who serves with the 3rd Battalion the Royal Welsh, said: “The contract is tremendously important.
“Any sort of opportunity to get new equipment that’s safer and better is a boost.”
Islwyn MP Don Touhig congratulated staff and praised the company for contributing to local community projects over the years.
Secretary of State Peter Hain said: “Once in service, these new specialist vehicles will bring significant benefits for our troops serving abroad in places like Afghanistan, such as improved protection, greater firepower, longer range sensors and sighting systems and a higher level of reliability.”
Under the contract, Cwmbran’s LS Design will supply data protection in a deal worth £3 million.
General Dynamics moved into Gwent in 2002 after winning a £2.4 billion contract to provide hi-tech communications systems to the Ministry of Defence in 2001.
In July last year it was awarded two defence contracts worth £231 million to produce tactical communications equipment.
The deal with the American company dashed the hopes of saving 500 threatened jobs at BAE Systems, who were also bidding for the contract.
EDITORIAL COMMENT: Contract to be proud of
THE WORKFORCE of General Dynamics in Oakdale can be justifiably proud of the part they have undoubtedly played in securing the company a multi-billion pound Ministry of Defence contract.
The £4bn contract which will safeguard jobs across the UK, will secure 100 jobs locally and, better still, will create a further 200 highly-skilled jobs at the site which already employs 800 people.
Wales will be the first to benefit.
This is great news for the local economy and testament to the skills of the workforce and General Dynamics management here.
General Dynamics plants in eight regions of the UK will also benefit from the MoD decision to award the company the contract to build a new light tank for the British Army.
The move has its critics, not least those who work for BAE systems which was competing for the contract.
And some may feel uncomfortable that such a significant contract is going to a firm which has its parent company in the United States.
But General Dynamics UK says the contract will safeguard or create 10,500 jobs in British-based companies while providing our troops with a vehicle which will provide our troops with more protection and firepower.
And Welsh secretary Peter Hain says the knock on effect will be a £400m boost to the Welsh economy.
And that has to be welcomed.