HUNDREDS of defence jobs have been secured after BAE Systems announced it was to quadruple the production of parts for a fighter plane.

The company, which has a site in Samlesbury, wants to increase output from one completed unit per week to one per day by 2018.

The move is expected to safeguard the 2,000 jobs at the Ribble Valley site which are part of the F-35 plane programme.

BAE currently produces around 42 units a year and is aiming to make just under 200 a year in five years time.

The news comes as BAE also revealed that the Lancashire Enterprise Zone - based at the site and due to open in 2015 - has its first company signed up.

The project has recently received £12.4million from the government’s Local Investment Fund, while BAE has invested £150million at the Samlesbury site over the past five years.

Chairman of the East Lancashire Chamber of Trade, Mike Damms said: “This is great news that has been long hoped for.

“It confirms the orders are coming through and is securing jobs for years to come.

“Realistically, aerospace works on a 25-year cycle, so we can hang our pick on that and build.

“It has consequences for the supply chain and for the local communities.

“The news puts down a marker to say that the enterprise zone is doing well and that BAE will continue to be the major driving force.

“It gives the general mood of optimism.”

Andrew Stephenson, MP for Pendle, said: “We have numerous aerospace companies across East Lancashire who are part of the BAE supply chain and this will be a huge boost to them.

“It is very important that we do not underestimate the importance of BAE for the supply chain.

“And it is also worth bearing in mind those that supply the supply chain.

“Aerospace component companies in East Lancashire who supply BAE are supported by maintenance companies and their employees use local shops for their lunches etc. The trickle down is huge.”

Since 2008, BAE has lost 4,500 members of staff through voluntary redundancy and the news of job security was welcomed by union leader Phil Entwistle who said: “We are still delivering and the other good news is that yesterday (FRI), the company put out an external advert for a range of opportunities.

“It is a long time coming considering, over the last four years, we have been facing redundancies.

“There is more of a positive feel around BAE after all the years of fighting against redundancies.”