£100m Indonesia missile deal firm Thales targets bigger contracts
The boss of a Northern Ireland defence company which has landed a £100m missile contract with the Indonesian government has said that even bigger deals could be in the pipeline.
Thales, which has bases in Castlereagh and Crossgar, beat off tough global competition from the USA, China and Russia to supply an "integrated advanced air defence system", including missiles and launchers which are designed, developed and manufactured in Northern Ireland.
David Beatty, managing director of Thales in Northern Ireland, said that the company had been working on the deal since around 2008.
He said no new jobs are being added to the 500-strong workforce this time, but the contract could be a springboard to increasing employment at the plant.
"This contract has been in the planning for some time, we anticipated it and we tailored our staffing levels to accommodate it," he said.
"This was a two-phase project, we landed an initial contract in 2011 and we were working on it a long time before that, perhaps as far back as 2008.
"We are supplying radar, communications equipment, launchers and missiles, including the basic STARStreak missile, made in Belfast and Crossgar, and the new RAPIDRanger, which has been completely designed here, and a large part of the whole overall system will be manufactured and integrated here.
"I think, like all the other aerospace, defence, space and security firms in Northern Ireland, we have a very high levels of skills in our factories and the contract is a good confidence boost for the company and for the manufacturing and engineering sectors here.
"We compete for this type of business against very big players from the USA, China and Russia, which come with very strong political lobbies.
"It is fantastic David Cameron has given great support to our industry and the Enterprise Minister Arlene Foster has also been very supportive, which is essential for our type of business.
"This deal keeps the doors of our business open, and helps the supply chain. It also sends out a good message to the rest of the UK and the world and will hopefully help endorse our company.
"We hope this will act as a springboard for bigger orders which I would like to think will lead to further employment.
"We are continuing to work on some very big deals."
While Mr Beatty said that he understands that some charities and campaigners are opposed to arms sales, he said that the company abided by all rules and guidelines and acted within international law.
Among those congratulating the firm was Prime Minister David Cameron, who said that the contract would help secure highly-skilled jobs in Northern Ireland and throughout the supply chain.
"This deal worth over £100m is great news for the UK and the aerospace industry, and a strong vote of confidence in this Government's long-term economic plan." he said.
Enterprise Minister Arlene Foster described the firm as "world class, with a global reputation", while Alliance East Belfast MLA Judith Cochrane said that Northern Ireland can play a part in international business deals.