OPERATING profits at BAE, which employs hundreds across East Lancashire, have risen year-on-year, according to their latest results.

And orders across the group rose to a record-breaking £28.2billion during 2018, the latest figures released for the aerospace giant show.

Sales were down slightly though, from £18.5billion to £18.4billion, compared to the same period in 2017. This week there has also been a warning that BAE could be encountering difficulties with Germany's refusal to sanction arms sales to Saudi Arabia.

Bosses from the company's air division, which has bases at Samlesbury and Warton, are bullish about the past year, bolstered by government support for combat air operations and a contract signed with the Qatari government for 24 Typhoons and nine Hawk aircraft.

Talks with the Saudis over the purchase of a further 48 Typhoons have also been advanced over the past 12 months.

Prospects for the Academy for Skills and Knowledge at Samlesbury also appear positive, with BAE taking on record numbers of apprentices.

Chris Boardman, Group Managing Director, Air, said: "This has been a remarkable year for the UK’s combat air sector and for our people.

"In 2018, major milestones were achieved to strengthen the UK's air power today, and critical steps taken to secure its future.

"Our teams have been focused on supporting the RAF in each of these priorities, from planning for the retirement of the hugely successful Tornado, to enhancing Typhoon with the latest capability and playing a key role as the F-35 enters operational service.

"And of course, we have been a part of a key moment in history, with the launch of the UK’s ambitious combat air strategy and the unique opportunity our people have to develop the critical technologies of the future as part of Team Tempest

"That’s why we're recruiting a record number of apprentices - to ensure we have the right skills to continue to support the Armed Forces well into the future.”

Charles Woodburn, BAE's chief executive, added: "The group made good progress in strengthening the outlook and geographic base of the business, with a number of significant contract wins.

"The defence order backlog is now at a record high with visibility on many of our key programmes through the next decade.

"Delivering a strong operational performance and continued investment will enable us to meet our growth expectations and underpin the long term."

Earlier this year the company also announced a partnership with the Williams grand prix team to pioneer advances in cockpit designs, augmented reality and advanced materials.