The UK Ministry of Defence (MOD) has signed a deal worth £271m with Leonardo Helicopters to continue to support the Royal Navy’s Wildcat maritime helicopters.

The five-year Wildcat integrated support and training (WIST) contract will support around 500 jobs at Leonardo’s facilities in Yeovil and Royal Naval Air Station Yeovilton, and another 100 jobs in its supply chain.

UK Defence Procurement Minister Harriett Baldwin said: “This Wildcat deal delivers a key capability for the Royal Navy and Army, and supports vital high-skilled jobs in Somerset, where there’s a proud tradition of supporting UK helicopter operations.

"Wildcat is one of the world’s most advanced helicopters and an important part of the government’s ten-year £178bn plan."

“Wildcat is one of the world’s most advanced helicopters and an important part of the government’s ten-year £178bn plan to provide our Armed Forces with the equipment they deserve.”

The deal will deliver several support and training services for the UK’s complete fleet of 62 AW159 Wildcat helicopters used by the Royal Navy and Army Air Corps.

Operators of Wildcat are 825 and 847 Naval Air Squadron and 652 and 661 Squadron Army Air Corps.

UK Defence Equipment and Support (DE&S) Organisation CEO Tony Douglas said: This agreement builds on many decades of joint working between the MOD and Leonardo helicopters, recently recognised through the signature of a strategic partnering arrangement with the company.

“Wildcat is a world-leading aircraft perfectly suited to operations on board the Royal Navy’s frontline warships such as the Type 23 Frigate, Type 45 Destroyer and Type 26 Global Combat Ship and in delivering the British Army’s airborne battlefield tasks, such as reconnaissance, command and control and force protection.”

The WIST deal supports the objectives of the strategic partnering arrangement signed between Leonardo Helicopters and the MOD last year.

Capable of a range of tasks over land and sea, the Royal Navy’s maritime Wildcat helicopter forms the core of the UK’s frigate and destroyer aviation capability.

It also performs tasks including anti-surface and submarine warfare, force protection, transport and the information, surveillance, target acquisition, and reconnaissance (ISTAR) role.

Similarly, the aircraft’s Army variant can perform reconnaissance, command and control, force protection, as well as transport roles in various environments.

Image: UK Minister for Defence Procurement visits Leonardo Helicopters. Photo: Copyright MOD.