BAE Systems

We are a technology-driven organisation and are proud of our central role in the engineering and manufacturing fabric of the North of England. With 12 sites across the region, we employ 21,000 people - more than half our UK workforce. We collaborate with suppliers, SMEs and regional partners, including universities, based in the North to develop some of the UK’s most technically advanced defence, aerospace and security technologies. We work together to help keep our nation secure and maintain Britain’s place in the world.

Powering the North Webinar. Originally broadcast
Tues, Oct 20, 12:00 - 1:00pm BST
Duration: 1:03:29
Across 12 sites
With 1,500 suppliers across the North
With 950 small and medium enterprises
Data sources: BAE Systems 2018 employment data. BAE Systems Head Office Procurement data. 

What we do in the North of England

The region is home to some of our most important engineering, technology and manufacturing sites, supporting military and commercial customers across air, sea, land and cyber. At Warton and Samlesbury in Lancashire, and at Brough in Yorkshire, our teams are involved in the development, manufacture, upgrade and support of world-leading combat and fast jet trainer aircraft such as Typhoon and F-35 Lightning II. We are also driving the development of future combat air systems and defence information systems.
In Barrow-in-Furness in Cumbria we design and manufacture nuclear powered submarines for the Royal Navy including the Astute attack submarine and Dreadnought, the replacement for the current Vanguard submarines. We also have two munitions facilities in the North of England, serving the UK Ministry of Defence as well as international customers. At Radway Green in Cheshire, we design, develop and manufacture small arms munitions and in Washington, Tyne and Wear, we forge, machine and treat heavy munitions. Furthermore, our Applied Intelligence offices in Manchester and Leeds support the development of data intelligence solutions for government and commercial customers.
Finally, from offices in Preston our Shared Services’ team deliver procurement, HR, IT, education and training and finance services to BAE Systems’ businesses in the UK, as well as managing the company’s portfolio of real estate.
Our contribution to the North of England

Supporting regional growth

We invest in people, technologies and infrastructure across our sites in the region to ensure we remain at the forefront of innovation.  It is important to us to support the local communities in which we operate through charitable donations and sponsorships, and we’re proud of the investment we make in the UK’s skills base.  Every year, we spend £100M on science, technology, engineering and maths (STEM) activities in the UK and we are enabling social mobility through skills and apprenticeships, with the majority of the apprentices we are recruiting in 2020 being based at our sites in the North.
Across the North of England we invest £650M with 1,500 suppliers, including £170M spent with 950 small and medium enterprises. We work with partners across the North to support and deliver long-term economic growth and productivity, technological know-how and the development of skills. These include Local Enterprise Partnerships and initiatives like Made Smarter, which aims to engage with 3,000 small and medium sized businesses to help them adopt more digital technologies and boost productivity, as well as Be the Business - the UK’s productivity improvement and competitiveness campaign.
Image showing ASK Academy apprentice

Academies for Skills & Knowledge

We have built two Academies for Skills & Knowledge in the North of England, investing more than £40M since 2015 to train and develop our employees. Opened in 2016, the first academy, located at our Samlesbury site in Lancashire, trains apprentices and employees from our Air business and is also used by local schools to gain first-hand experience of STEM in an industrial environment. In the first two years of operation, more than 100,000 people used the facility.
Our second Academy for Skills & Knowledge was opened in Barrow-in-Furness, Cumbria to support the development of submarine design and manufacturing skills. The facility received its first apprentices in December 2018 and has since delivered more than 8,800 training hours.
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Working in partnership to develop smart factories of the future

We are at the forefront of UK research into Industry 4.0 and the digital technologies needed to make it happen and improve productivity throughout our business and in the sector. Through Air Labs, our evolving virtual and physical technology incubator, we allow engineers to collaborate and experiment, working together in areas such as design, computational fluid dynamics, structures and qualification. This allows us to architect and integrate at pace, delivering compelling and affordable solutions across our product lifecycles.
Looking specifically at advances in the manufacturing element of this lifecycle, we are drawing from work in Air Labs with our first of its kind factory of the future. Here, our teams are integral to the development of a fully connected, digital Industry 4.0 factory that will support a high value manufacturing enterprise zone in the North West of England. The ‘smart factory’ will exploit the latest technologies and expertise to drive down costs and improve efficiencies in manufacturing and we are collaborating with other leading companies to help shape a paradigm shift in aircraft manufacturing and deliver cutting edge manufacturing capability.
This new factory demonstrates a new approach to the way humans and machines can operate together. Cobotics, such as flexible robot technologies, remove the need for heavy, fixed, long-lead tooling and can switch from the manufacture of one item or platform to another quickly.

Also vital to our future factory is the ability to capture manufacturing data from the start of the process right the way through to completion. With this we can spot inefficiencies and maximise available resources, time and materials. Austin Cook, Lead Technologist, Emerging Technologies & Systems said: “By using automation and data we remove significant elements of tooling, bringing down set-up and infrastructure costs. We can look earlier in the life-cycle and automate future downstream processes.”
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Image showing li-fi communication

Li-Fi technology for Royal Navy submarines

Our engineers at Barrow-in-Furness are investigating deploying a novel technology called Li-Fi onto submarines when it isn’t possible to install secure Wi-Fi because of physical, environmental or security constraints.  
Unlike Wi-Fi, which uses radio waves to transmit data, Li-Fi transmits data at superfast speeds using visible, ultra-violet and infrared light. The technology works through switching LEDs on and off at incredibly high speeds unnoticeable to the human eye. Although the LEDs must always remain powered to transmit, they can be dimmed so that they are not visible but still provide a data function.
Li-Fi cannot penetrate walls, which makes it much more secure to outside interference or hacking. As well as allowing engineers to communicate with one another, it has the potential to be used to enable systems to communicate, or to introduce connectivity where it has not been previously possible due to logistic or environmental challenges. Li-Fi does not provide electromagnetic interference, so it can be used in close proximity to sensitive instruments.
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Image showing BAE Systems employee

Movement to Work

As one of the lead employers within the Movement to Work scheme, which aims to tackle youth unemployment by providing vocational training and work experience, we provide nearly 100 young people with work placements every year.

Rosie, now a production apprentice based in our Submarines business in Barrow-in-Furness, had struggled with previous job applications due to her dyslexia and number dyspraxia. After finding out about Movement to Work through her local job centre, she applied to join the programme. Speaking about her experience, Rosie says, “BAE Systems has given me a second chance to prove what I can do. I love my job and I'd recommend the scheme to anyone."
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Image of Brough Structural Testing Facility

Our Structural Testing Facility at Brough

One of the biggest testing laboratories in the world can be found on the banks of the River Humber in East Yorkshire, on the outskirts of the city of Hull. Here, at our Brough site, our structural and dynamic testing facility continues to put a Typhoon airframe through its paces without the aircraft ever leaving the hangar. The airframe is covered with hundreds of strain gauges and actuators which push and pull the aircraft to simulate flight, enabling our fatigue engineers to operate an airframe hundreds of flying hours ahead of the RAF's frontline fleet.
This ensures any structural issues are identified and put right at a far earlier stage than the flying aircraft. The team at Brough have been undertaking structural testing work since the 1970s, testing dozens of different aircraft including the iconic Harrier  and Tornado, and more recently the F-35 Lightning II and Hawk.
Image showing BAE Systems employee

Investing in munitions production at Radway Green

Our Radway Green site equips the British Armed Forces and international customers with a range of 5.56mm and 7.62mm small arms ammunitions. The site has undergone an £83M investment, giving us some of the most advanced ammunition production machines available in the world. More recently the facility has secured an additional investment of around £2M to assist with the implementation of Industry 4.0 principles.
Each round manufactured in Radway Green, is tested by an automatic image capture and laser measuring machine, which takes thousands of accurate measurements as the rounds pass along the production line. The new technologies help maintain the highest quality output to support the munitions needs of the British Army and to fulfil export orders.
George Schofield, Integrated Delivery Team Leader for Light Munitions at BAE Systems’ Land UK business, said: “Having provided nearly all of the British Army’s ammunition requirements since 1940, we are trusted to provide high volumes of precision rounds that soldiers know they can rely on.”
Image of Wind Tunnel at Warton

Wind tunnels in Warton

With speeds of nearly four times the speed of sound, our wind tunnels in Warton, Lancashire test aerodynamics and help ensure that aircraft and missiles are as streamlined as possible. On occasion, they have also been known to be used to help athletes test sporting equipment as part of our technology partnership with UK Sport.
The facility has been helping define and develop designs for decades and recent investments are driving even greater efficiencies into the way it operates. The tests are carried out by passing air at high speeds over aircraft models, aircraft parts or missiles in order to assess the aerodynamic performance. This helps us decide what changes could be made to ensure the product is at its optimum.
Our Warton site is home to two tunnels, known respectively as the low speed and high speed tunnels. In the latter, tests can be carried out at speeds up to Mach 3.8, which makes it perfect for transonic work.
Image of English Electric P5 Kingston - Heritage

A proud heritage in the North

With a long and proud heritage in the North of England, BAE Systems can trace its history back to many of the pioneering engineering companies in the region, across air, land, sea and munitions.

We’re also immensely proud of our long heritage of engineering and manufacturing excellence; this tradition stretches back over 100 years to the manufacture of the UK’s first submarine at Barrow-in-Furness by the Vickers Company in 1901.

From the first attempt by WG Armstrong to establish his crane company in Newcastle in 1845, business expanded into shipbuilding, munitions and vehicles along the north bank of the Tyne. In 1871, James Ramsden launched the Iron Shipbuilding Company at what is now our Barrow site, merging with Vickers in 1897 and then Armstrong in 1927.

Meanwhile by 1910, the birth of British aviation saw Avro launched in Manchester, while Robert Blackburn was taking his first flights at Filey before opening manufacture at Brough in 1916.  An initial foray into flying boats by English Electric in Preston in the early 1920s led to the opening of Samlesbury for manufacture in WW2, and the acquisition of our Warton site as a focus for post war development.

For over a century, heavy munitions and electronics have been manufactured around Newcastle, and other Royal Ordnance plants such as Radway Green continue to supply ammunition using the most innovative production techniques.

Our heritage

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