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13 Dec 02. Whilst BAE SYSTEMS plays the ‘national interest’ card regarding the metal-bashing element of the CVF project, a large slice of which it is likely to win in any event, another battle is being played out behind the scenes regarding the Command System segment of the contract which AMS the BAE SYSTEMS partner believes to be far more significant than the hulls.

“The Combat System contract for CVF is the largest naval systems contract available at the moment”, Mike Perowne Managing Director of AMS Integrated Systems’ Division told BATTLESPACE, “Not only in value, some £400 million but in strategic importance. The Command and Control system will not only enhance the work carried out in the UK by AMS and its partners such as EDS Defence and Ultra on the Type 45 system, it will provide export jobs well into the next Century. We have 300 qualified engineers working on the project already. CVF is more than just an aircraft carrier, it is a node forming part of the Royal Navy’s CEC and Networkcentric Warfare capability.”

Thales has recognised the importance of the Command System as part of its ongoing discussions with DCN to build a world-class shipbuilding company exporting all round the world. The company has not made it clear where the command system will be made but it is likely given the current structure of that segment that France will have the lead and the bulk of the business.

Shipbuilding has been in decline for decades and the placing of some metalwork with UK yards will not halt this decline, but an order of such magnitude for command systems will allow AMS and its shareholders BAE SYSTEMS and Finmeccanica to develop world-class naval systems to build its new EUROSYYSTEMS JV (See EUROSYSTEMS TAKES OFF).

In a week where we have seen the collapse of trading figurers with the worst trade figures since 1767 can the government afford for another key high-technology business to disappear from the UK. Given its reluctance to get involved in any form of industry policy and its reaction to BAE’s problems, this one may take a little more lobbying from Patricia Hewitt’s rising stars at the DTI.

In another development, unconfirmed reports suggest that BAE SYSTEMS may bring in the U.S. Newport News yard, a world-leader in carrier construction into its team as part of a wider relationship for projects in the UK and USA.

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