MORE than 600 engineering jobs will be secured by a £125 million MoD contract to maintain, repair and upgrade the RAF’s Tornado jets.

The contract with BAE Systems will involve work at bases including RAF Leeming in North Yorkshire. 

Highly-skilled work will be carried out on the GR4 fleet to ensure they are ready to support operations over the next five years, as they have done in Afghanistan and Libya.

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Philip Hammond, the Defence Secretary said: “This investment will ensure our Tornado aircraft continue to be battle ready for the next five years, as a key part of the RAF’s fast jet fleet.

“They currently play a vital role in supporting troops on the ground in Afghanistan and they will continue to form the backbone of our ground attack capability until the Joint Strike Fighter arrives and the Typhoon’s ground attack capability is fully mature in a few years’ time.

"This contract will help sustain the specialist skills across the UK which make Britain a world leader in engineering.”

The contract will run until the aircraft are retired at the end of the decade and replaced by Typhoon and Lightning II jets.

The Tornado GR4 can fly at supersonic speeds at up to 50,000 feet carrying some of the most advanced reconnaissance and surveillance equipment in the world. This is alongside an array of short range air to air missiles, laser guided bombs, and a cannon capable of firing 1,700 rounds per minute.

The aircraft is deployed in Afghanistan providing air support, and has previously operated in Iraq, Kosovo and Libya.

Air Marshal Simon Bollom, said: “The Tornado now represents a world class capability with an array of weapons and sensors and will continue to support operations and be an integral part of the RAF’s fleet until it is retired near the end of the decade.

”Through this contract we will continue to partner with BAE Systems to deliver agile and innovative support to ensure the Tornado force is capable and ready for action.”