Airbus reaffirms its pledge to open Britain’s first new helicopter factory

engineering careers  Airbus reaffirms its pledge to open Britain’s first new helicopter factory

Airbus has reiterated its promise to establish the first new helicopter production facility in Britain in decades.

The company’s commitment is contingent upon winning a £1.1 billion contract from the UK Ministry of Defence (MoD) to build a new generation of helicopters, replacing the country’s ageing fleet of Pumas. If successful, Airbus estimates the new factory will create hundreds of jobs and generate billions of pounds in export revenue.

Competition for the MoD’s New Medium Helicopter Contract

Airbus competes against the Italian group Leonardo and the American multinational Lockheed Martin for the MoD’s New Medium Helicopter contract. The deal, valued at £1.1 billion, involves the production of at least 25 helicopters to replace the UK’s ageing Puma fleet. The Puma helicopters have been in service for several decades and are nearing the end of their operational life.

uk airbus helicopter

If Airbus secures the MoD contract, the company plans to establish a new helicopter production line at its existing wing manufacturing plant in Broughton, Wales. This facility would become the sole global production site for the H175M, a military variant of Airbus’s H175 helicopter. The move would involve transferring work from Airbus’s current helicopter manufacturing site in Marignane, southern France, to the UK.

Establishing a new helicopter factory in Broughton would mark a significant milestone for the UK’s aerospace industry, as it would be the first such facility to be built in the country in decades. Airbus’s pledge highlights the company’s commitment to investing in the UK and strengthening its presence in the market.

Leonardo, Airbus’s Italian competitor, is pitching its AW149 helicopter to replace the Puma. If the contract is awarded, Leonardo plans to manufacture the AW149 at its factory in Yeovil, England. On the other hand, Lockheed Martin, one of the world’s largest aerospace companies, is proposing its Black Hawk helicopter for the MoD contract. The Black Hawk is a mainstay of the American military, but Lockheed Martin has not committed to assembling the helicopters in the UK.

During the International Military Helicopter conference held in London, it was announced that the Invitation to Negotiate (ITN) for the New Medium Helicopter contract had been released. The three candidate suppliers – Airbus, Leonardo, and Lockheed Martin – will now prepare and submit their detailed bids to the MoD. The MoD will then evaluate the proposals and determine the contract’s winner.

British Helicopter Programme Enters Next Phase

Last week, the New Medium Helicopter (NMH) Programme officially moved into the next stage. The announcement was made by James Cartlidge, Minister for Defence Procurement, at the International Military Helicopter conference in London.

With the release of the Invitation to Negotiate, the three candidate suppliers – Airbus Helicopters UK, Leonardo Helicopters UK, and Lockheed Martin UK – will now compile their bids for evaluation by the Ministry of Defence. The competition will be managed by Defence Equipment and Support (DE&S), and proposals will be assessed throughout 2025, with a contract award anticipated subject to Government approvals.

Minister Cartlidge emphasized the importance of the New Medium Helicopter in providing essential support to military operations and the programme’s focus on securing vital rotary wing Operational Independence. This will allow the UK to respond swiftly to emerging threats in an increasingly contested world.

However, recent data from the Ministry of Defence revealed that the timeline for the New Medium Helicopter programme had been extended by three years, with the project’s end-date now set for September 30, 2031. The delay is attributed to further analysis of the programme schedule and amendments made during the MOD’s Annual Budget Cycle 2022. Additionally, the project’s whole-life cost has increased from £1,172 million to £1,329 million, primarily due to an uplift to safeguard the capabilities the programme plans to deliver.

With intense competition from Leonardo and Lockheed Martin, the final result remains to be determined. The UK aerospace industry and the wider public will be closely following the progress of this contract, as it has the potential to shape the future of helicopter manufacturing in the country.


  • Airbus pledges to open UK’s first new helicopter factory in decades if awarded MoD contract
  • Airbus competing against Leonardo and Lockheed Martin for £1.1 billion deal to replace Puma fleet
  • Proposed Broughton facility would be sole global production site for H175M military helicopters
  • Invitation to Negotiate released; competitors to submit bids for MoD evaluation
  • Outcome of contract decision to shape future of UK helicopter manufacturing