Thales wins £1.8bn Ministry of Defence contract to maintain Royal Navy fleet over next 15 years

A defence firm has won a £1.8bn contract to maintain the Royal Navy's fleet of ships and submarines over the next 15 years.

Thales said the deal with the Ministry of Defence (MoD) will support more than 450 highly skilled jobs across the UK, including creating more than 100 positions at its manufacturing site by the River Clyde in Glasgow.

The Maritime Sensor Enhancement Team contract will sharpen the focus on equipment availability, predicting problems - through AI innovations and data management - rather than reacting when they emerge.

By investing in new dockland facilities, AI, data analysis tools, and skills, it is hoped the turn around times of repairs will reduce, which will maximise the days the navy is ready to deploy ships and submarines at sea.

The contract will also support sonar - the ability to hear underneath water - masts, periscopes and electronic warfare equipment that enable the navy to detect and target potential threats.

Announcing the contract on Friday, Defence Secretary Grant Shapps said: "In a time of global instability, it is imperative we minimise the time our ships and submarines are out for maintenance.

"This is another partnership with Thales UK and our outstanding UK defence sector that not only boosts national security but provides a boost to local communities and helps fuel economic growth."

Read more from Sky News:
UK military's readiness for 'all-out war' in doubt, say MPs

Royal Navy shoots down attack drone in anger 'for first time since 1991 Gulf War'

Around 300 UK jobs from a previous Thales support contract will be sustained, and a further 150 science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) jobs and apprenticeships will be created across Faslane, Glasgow, Plymouth, Portsmouth, Stockport, Somerset, Sussex and Bristol.

In July last year, Thales Glasgow was awarded a £169m contract to build the periscopes for the Royal Navy's new Dreadnought vessels.

The Clyde base is one of the world's most advanced naval manufacturing sites and has designed and built periscopes for every Royal Navy submarine since 1917.

Alex Cresswell, CEO of Thales in the UK, said: "Thales is delighted to strengthen our century-long partnership with the Royal Navy, and support its vital role in defending the UK and keeping the world's critical sea lanes open.

"This £1.8bn contract with Thales will help keep more Royal Navy ships at sea for longer, by harnessing the latest developments in artificial intelligence, data analysis and improved dockland facilities."