Bombardier's Belfast plant to help build combat drone
Bombardier's up-for-sale Northern Ireland operation has been awarded a contract to help develop an unmanned combat aircraft for the Ministry of Defence.
The operation has partnered with Northrop Grumman UK and Callen-Lenz to form Team Blackdawn, one of three teams awarded contracts for the futuristic development project, nicknamed Project Mosquito.
The Lightweight Affordable Novel Combat Aircraft (LANCA) concept was announced by the RAF Rapid Capabilities Office (RCO) and the Defence Science and Technology Laboratory (Dstl).
The new plane is expected to be deployed alongside fighter jets like the F-35 and Typhoon.
The Government has said it will offer increased protection, survivability and information for manned aircraft, and could even provide an unmanned combat air 'fleet' in the future.
Bombardier is among the companies who have been awarded contracts as a 'technology demonstrator' for phase one of the work.
The first phase will see the production of a preliminary system design for an unmanned air vehicle. Bombardier's team will also analyse key risk areas and cost-capability. Initial flight test of the demonstrator air vehicle could take place as early as 2022.
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A Bombardier spokeswoman said: "Bombardier is delighted to be involved in the development of a technology demonstrator for the Ministry of Defence.
"We look forward to working with our partners on the first phase of the project, which is scheduled to last for 12 months.
"Given the early stage and terms of the contract, we are currently unable to provide further details."
Bombardier's operation in Northern Ireland, which is headed by general manager Michael Ryan, remains up for sale.
Spanish aircraft parts-maker Aernnova emerged earlier this month as a possible buyer.
US-based Spirit Aerosystems, UK group GKN and Airbus have also been linked with a potential acquisition of the business, which employs 3,500 people.