Aerospace industry in the United Kingdom

The aerospace industry of the United Kingdom is the second-largest national aerospace industry in the world and the largest in Europe, with a global market share of 17% in 2015.[1][2][3][4] In 2014, the industry employed 230,000 people across 3,000 companies.[2] Domestic companies with a large presence in the British aerospace industry include BAE Systems (the world's third-largest defence contractor[5][6]), Britten-Norman, Cobham, GKN, Hybrid Air Vehicles, Meggitt, QinetiQ, Rolls Royce (the world's second-largest maker of defence aero engines[7]) and Ultra Electronics. Foreign companies with a major presence include Boeing, Bombardier, Airbus Group (including its Airbus, Astrium, Cassidian and Surrey Satellite Technology subsidiaries), Leonardo-Finmeccanica (including its AgustaWestland and Selex ES subsidiaries), General Electric (including its GE Aviation Systems subsidiary), Lockheed Martin, MBDA (37.5% owned by BAE Systems), Safran (including its Messier-Dowty and Turbomeca subsidiaries) and Thales Group (including its UK-based Thales Air Defence, Thales Avionics and Thales Optronics subsidiaries). Current manned aircraft in which the British aerospace industry has a major role include the AgustaWestland AW101, AgustaWestland AW159, Airbus A320 family, Airbus A330, Airbus A340, Airbus A380, Airbus A400M, BAE Hawk, Boeing 767, Boeing 777, Boeing 787,[8] Bombardier CRJ700, Bombardier CSeries, Bombardier Learjet 85, Britten-Norman Defender, Britten-Norman Islander, Eurofighter Typhoon, Hawker 800, Lockheed Martin C-130J Super Hercules and Lockheed Martin F-35 Lightning II. Current unmanned aerial vehicles in which the British aerospace industry has a major role include BAE Taranis, Barnard Microsystems InView UAV, HAV 304 Airlander 10, QinetiQ Zephyr and Watchkeeper WK450.

The British aerospace industry has made many important contributions to the history of aircraft and was solely, or jointly, responsible for the development and production of the first aircraft with an enclosed cabin (the Avro Type F), the first jet aircraft to enter service for the Allies in World War II (the Gloster Meteor),[9] the first commercial jet airliner to enter service (the de Havilland Comet),[10] the first aircraft capable of supercruise (the English Electric Lightning),[11] the first supersonic commercial jet airliner to enter service (the Aérospatiale-BAC Concorde),[12] the first fixed-wing V/STOL combat aircraft to enter service (the Hawker Siddeley Harrier),[13] the first twin-engined widebody commercial jet airliner (the Airbus A300),[14] the first digital fly-by-wire commercial aircraft (the Airbus A320),[15] and the largest commercial aircraft to enter service to date (the Airbus A380).[16]

A parade flight comprising an Aérospatiale-BAC Concorde and BAE Hawks of the Red Arrows aerobatics display team for the Queen’s Golden Jubilee.
A Supermarine Spitfire, of which 20,351 were produced between 1938 and 1948.

General statistics

UK aerospace industry in 2013[1]
Turnover (£ Bn.) No. of enterprises Economic contribution (£ Bn.) % of economic output
24.7 634 9.4 0.9%



1900 to 1909

1910 to 1919

1939 to 1945

1945 to 1949

1950 to 1959

1960 to 1969

1970 to 1979

1980 to 1989

1990 to 1999

2000 to present

Current major projects

Manned civil aircraft

Manned military aircraft

Civil and military UAVs and UCAVs

InView UAV for use in scientific, commercial and state applications.



A Boeing 787 powered by Rolls-Royce Trent 1000 engines.





Current major participants


AgustaWestland is an international helicopter manufacturer owned by Leonardo-Finmeccanica of Italy. In the United Kingdom, the company has one factory in Yeovil, employing more than 4,000 people.[51] Its main products with a large British content are the EH101, the Super and Future Lynx and the AW139 and AW149.

Airbus UK

An Airbus A380, the wings and engines of which are produced in the UK.

Airbus (a subsidiary of Airbus Group) directly employs around 13,000 people at its UK division Airbus UK, with estimates that it supports another 140,000 jobs in the wider UK economy.[52][53] The traditional UK workshare in Airbus aircraft is around 20%.[54] Airbus has major sites at Filton in the city of Bristol and at Broughton in north Wales.[52] Filton is the main research and development and support centre for all Airbus wings, fuel systems and landing gear integration.[55] Broughton, which employs over 5,000 people, is the main wing manufacturing centre for all Airbus aircraft and also builds the fuselage and wings of the Hawker 800.[53][55] Since 2006 Airbus has also had a small development centre in the Midlands.

Airbus Defence & Space

Airbus Defence and Space (a subsidiary of Airbus Group) is the largest space company in Europe and employs around 2,700 people in the UK.[56] It has sites at Stevenage (1,200 employees), Portsmouth (1,400 employees) and Poynton (120 employees).[57][58][59]

BAE Systems

The UK-headquartered BAE Systems is the world's second-largest defence contractor and it employs around 36,400 people in the UK.[60][61] The largest aerospace related locations of BAE Systems are Warton, Samlesbury and Brough. The final assembly line for the British Eurofighter Typhoons, a collaborative European programme, is located at Warton. All flight test activity for manned aircraft is undertaken from Warton, which is also the development centre within BAE Systems, for unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs), UCAVs and the Saudi Tornado upgrade programme. Samlesbury is the production hub of the Military Air Solutions division of BAE Systems. Here, components for the Eurofighter Typhoon, the F35 Lightning II, the Hawk, UAVs, UCAVs and Airbus aircraft get built. At Brough, the BAE Hawk gets produced and final assembled, flight tests are done at Warton. Overall, Military Air Solution has 14,000 employees spread across eight sites in the United Kingdom.[62]

Britten-Norman Group

The Britten-Norman Group is a small company with about 100 employees. It is best known for its design of rugged transport aircraft, such as the Islander,[63] Trislander and Defender 4000. To reduce costs, the company (resident on the Isle of Wight) did not perform manufacture of the airframes, but instead outsourced this to Romania. However, it has now moved production of all aircraft back to Daedalus Airfield and also performs in the European hub for the Cirrus SR20 and SR22 final assembly and delivery.[64]

Bombardier UK

The Canadian company, Bombardier, employs about 5,000 people in its aerospace division in the UK. It can trace its roots back to Shorts Brothers in Northern Ireland. The company has significant workshares in most Bombardier aircraft with its specialities being fuselages and nacelles.


Cobham plc employs more than 12,000 people in the UK and elsewhere. Its most important products include refuelling equipment and communication systems.

GE Aviation Systems

GE Aviation Systems, formerly known as Smiths Aerospace, is a division of General Electric, with about 10,000 employees, half of which work in the UK.


GKN Aerospace is a division of the British company GKN, which employs approximately 5,000 people, mainly in the UK and the USA. In the UK, its most important facility is on the Isle of Wight, where it has a carbon composite centre of excellence. There it designed, and used to produce, the composite wing spar for the Airbus A400M now produced at GKN's New purpose built Western Approach, Bristol site. The company is also known for producing the cell of the Super Lynx and Future Lynx helicopters. It is the former owner of Westland Helicopters.


MBDA is the largest European missile house, owned by BAE Systems (37.5%), EADS (37.5%) and Finmeccanica (25%). It operates across Europe, with main capabilities in the United Kingdom, France, Germany and Italy. In the UK, the main sites are Bristol (software and systems) Lostock (production), Stevenage (R&D and integration) and London (management). Modern missile programmes, of MBDA with a British input, are the AIM-132 ASRAAM, Meteor, Storm Shadow, Rapier, Sea Wolf and Brimstone among others.[65]


QinetiQ was formed from parts of the former Defence Evaluation and Research Agency (DERA). It has close to 12,000 employees and is one of the major players in the British aerospace industry. QinetiQ's main aerospace business relates to satellites, UAVs and reconnaissance systems.


An Airbus A400M, which is powered by the Europrop TP400.

The UK-headquartered Rolls-Royce Group is the world's second-largest maker of aircraft engines (behind General Electric).[66][67] It has over 50,000 employees, of whom about 23,000 are based in the United Kingdom.[32] The company's main UK factories are at Derby and Bristol. In Derby, the three shaft Trent engines get developed and produced. The current line up includes the Trent 700 for the Airbus A330, the Trent 900 for the Airbus A380, the Trent 1000 for the Boeing 787 and the Trent XWB for the Airbus A350 XWB, among others. In Bristol, the company has concentrated its military aerospace business with the British final assembly line for the EJ200 engine for the Eurofighter Typhoon, the only final assembly line for the British-French Adour engine and other programmes, such as significant parts of the workshare, in the international TP400 turboprop engine for the Airbus A400M and the General Electric/Rolls-Royce F136 engine for the F-35 Lightning II. Recently, Bristol has also been confirmed as the centre for the development and testing of the civil RB282 engine, which will, however, be produced in Virginia.[32]

Main locations

Selex ES

Selex ES is a Leonardo-Finmeccanica company and an international leader in electronic and information technologies for defence systems, aerospace, data, infrastructures, land security and protection and sustainable ’smart’ solutions.

The company is an integrated global business with a workforce of approximately 17,000 and total revenues in excess of €3.5 billion. Alongside core operations in Italy and the UK, the company has an established industrial and commercial footprint in the United States, Germany, Turkey, Romania, Brazil, Saudi Arabia and India.

Surrey Satellite Technology

An artist's impression of two of the five satellites constructed by Surrey Satellite Technology for RapidEye AG.

Surrey Satellite Technology is a small satellite development and production company. It has currently has c.600 employees and is the world leader in small satellites.[68] In its 22-year history, it has developed satellites for 27 missions. The two Galileo satellite navigation proofing satellites, GIOVE-A and GIOVE-A2, are two of their better-known satellites. Originally a spin-out company from the University of Surrey, Surrey Satellite Technology is now 99% owned by the Airbus Defence and Space division of Airbus Group.[69]

Thales UK

Thales Group UK has wide ranging capabilities including avionics, UAVs, simulation capabilities and other things.

Trifibre Flight Cases

Trifibre are Manufacturers of bespoke Flight Cases, protective Cases for the Aerospace Industry.

See also


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External links

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