DEFENCE giant BAE Systems has signed a £1.6billion contract to supply Hawk aircraft to Saudi Arabia.

The contract, which includes the supply of 55 Pilatus PC-21 aircraft and 22 Hawk advanced jet trainer aircraft, means that 250 jobs at the company’s two Lancashire plants, at Samlesbury and Warton, have been secured until at least 2016.

It was reported in January that more than half of the two sites’ 1,400 workers were being redeployed, or made redundant.

At its annual meeting earlier this month, BAE bosses blamed cuts in defence budgets in the UK, and in America, for the cuts, reporting a 14per cent fall in 2011 revenues to £19.2billion.

The agreement with the Middle Eastern kingdom, which had already placed an order for 72 Eurofighter Typhoon jets, is a welcome relief for the company, which was due to shut down its Brough plant, in East Yorkshire, axing 845 jobs.

The announcement made yesterday has ensured that 248 jobs at the East Yorkshire plant will now be saved, as well as roles guaranteed for 30 of the site’s apprentices on completion of their apprenticeship.

A further 73 roles will be available for Brough employees who wish to transfer across to the Samlesbury and Warton sites.

Most of future manufacturing of Hawk aircraft will take place at the Lancashire sites, but BAE said there will be some work in Brough as a result of yesterday’s contract news.

Commenting on the announcement, Guy Griffiths, group managing director international, said: “We are honoured that BAE Systems has been awarded this contract to provide the Royal Saudi Air Force with aircraft and training equipment to meet their future aircrew training needs.

“We have a long history in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia and, working with Pilatus, we will provide the RSAF with the best training platforms to meet their requirements.”

Deliveries of the Pilatus PC-21, manufactured in Switzerland, will commence in 2014.

The UK-built Hawk aircraft will be delivered from 2016.