PROFITS for the first half of 2019 at BAE Systems have made a robust improvement - compared to the same period 12 months ago.

Several supply contracts were secured in February to support the F-35 and orders for the Typhoon and Hawk are progressing with the Qataris and Saudis.

Confirmation of the next phase of the Tempest prototype programme and trials of the new flapless Magma unmanned plane has also boosted the aerospace giant, which has a heavy presence in Samlesbury and Warton.

And as reported by the Lancashire Telegraph, a new memorandum of understanding has been signed between Britain and Sweden for a joint combat air development and acquisition, benefitting the Typhoon and Tempest programmes.

Charles Woodburn, BAE's chief executive, said: "The first half performance underpins our guidance for the full year with improvements being made on a number of operational fronts.

"Our priority is to deliver consistent and strong operational performance for our customers and shareholders to enable us to meet our growth expectations over the medium term."

Operating profits for the first half of 2019 are £896million for the group, compared to £792milllion for the same six months a year ago.

Net pension deficits have increased from £3.1billion to £4.3billion, from 2018 to 2019, and net debt for the period is £1.9billion, from £904million year-on-year.

Two hundred and fifty apprentices are also scheduled to join BAE from September, in support of combat air operations.

And funding was also secured from Lockheed Martin in March to integrate MBDA's Meteor air-to-air and Spear surface attack missiles on the F35.

The first Hawk entered service for the Saudi air force in June and 24 Typhoons and nine Hawks are being mobilised for the Qataris.