BAE Systems has been awarded a multi-million pound contract to repair and upgrade the UK Royal Air Force’s (RAF) Tornado GR4 all-weather attack aircraft.

Under the terms of £125m contract, the company will maintain, repair and upgrade the Tornado GR4 fleet to ensure readiness to support the RAF’s combat operations over the next five years.

Awarded by the UK Ministry of Defence (MoD), the contract is an extension of the original availability transformation: tornado aircraft contract (ATTAC) secured by the company in 2006.

The ATTAC B contract is expected to bring an estimated £90m savings to the UK taxpayer compared to the original agreement through greater efficiencies in fleet management, while securing more than 600 British engineering jobs.

UK Defence Secretary Philip Hammond said the Tornados play a critical role in supporting ground troops in Afghanistan and will continue to form the backbone of UK’s ground attack capability until the arrival of F-35 fighter and full maturation of Typhoon’s ground attack capability.

"This contract will help sustain the specialist skills across the UK which make Britain a world leader in engineering," Hammond said.

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"The ATTAC B contract is expected to bring an estimated £90m savings to the UK taxpayer."

UK Defence Equipment and Support Organisation Materiel chief air marshal Simon Bollom said: "This ATTAC B contract builds on a firm foundation and delivers yet further improvements at reduced cost which will keep Tornado operating at the highest level for the next five years."

Tornado is a twin engine, variable-sweep wing combat aircraft being developed by Panavia, a consortium of Alenia Aeronautica, EADS and BAE Systems in three primary variants, including the Tornado interdictor/strike (IDS) fighter-bomber, electronic combat/reconnaissance (ECR) version and an air defence variant (ADV) interceptor.

Having earlier supported operations in Iraq, Kosovo and Libya, the RAF’s Tornado GR4 is currently deployed in Afghanistan, providing vital air support to UK and wider International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) operations.

Work under the contract is scheduled to continue until the aircraft are decommissioned in 2019.

Image: A Royal Air Force Tornado fighter takes off. Photo: Sergeant Paul Oldfield, Crown ©.

Defence Technology