Rolls-Royce has signed a £198m contract with the Royal Air Force (RAF) to provide engine support for the Royal Navy Harrier jets.

The new contract will guarantee the availability of the aircraft and provide technical support for the engine, which provides the Harrier with its unique short take-off and vertical landing capability.

Minister for Defence Equipment and Support, Quentin Davies, said that it was critical to support the Harrier jets, as they provide key support for ground forces in Afghanistan.

“This contract follows in the footsteps of other fast-jet support contracts in offering improved availability of aircraft whenever and wherever they are needed,” Davies said.

The Harrier jets are operated by the Royal Air Force and Royal Navy under the umbrella of Joint Force Harrier and have been operating from Kandahar Airbase in support of Nato forces conducting operations against the Taliban.

Rolls-Royce Defence Aerospace will be managing the new contract from its site at Bristol, with some work being carried out at RAF Wittering and the main repair and overhaul being carried out at the Rolls-Royce site at Ansty in Leicestershire.

By Daniel Garrun.