AIR defence workers in East Lancashire look set to be at the heart of a new strategic defence agreement between the UK and Sweden.

Defence Secretary Penny Mordaunt and her Swedish counterpart Peter Hultqvist have signed a memorandum of understanding between the two nations.

Advanced technologies researched and developed at BAE Systems in Samlesbury and Warton will continue to improve the Typhoon and bolster the Gripen fighter systems, used by the Scandinavians, as part of the fledgling partnership.

And the Swedes, working with Saab, are also in talks with the UK to develop future combat air capabilities, which are currently focused on Team Tempest, the concept aircraft being jointly pioneered by BAE, Rolls Royce, Leonardo and MBDA.

Announcing the link-up at the Royal Military Tattoo at RAF Fairford, Stuart Andrew, defence procurement minister, said: "Today we usher in an exciting new era in which the talents of two great combat air nations will be combined to lift Swedish and British airpower into the stratosphere."

Mr Hultqvist said that the two nations already participate in joint exercises in the Arctic and over Eastern Europe and Swedish-made chaff and flare dispensers were deployed on the Typhoon.

He told a press conference that the collaboration had been signed against a backdrop of increasingly interventionist attitude by the Russians.

Talks between the governments and their industrial partners had been ongoing since the UK published its Air Combat Strategy in July 2018, which is supported through Tempest.

The minister said a joint analysis of future air combat opportunities would now take place, between the two parties, and was due to report back in autumn 2020.

Mr Hultqvist said that the UK, working with European partners, had also developed the state-of-the-art Meteor air-to-air missiles, which are finally assembled at MBDA's plant in Lostock.

Charles Woodburn, group chief executive of BAE, said the announcement represented a "significant milestone" for the Team Tempest programme.

Mr Andrew also said other nations were being encouraged to join the UK and Swedish dialogue, on the condition that they had similar requirements.