BAE Systems and Rolls Royce have joined a consortium of major UK industrial, technology and engineering businesses to produce medical ventilators.

The new body aims to manufacture more than 10,000 of the vitally-needed devices within weeks to help the battle against coronavirus.

The government has commissioned The Ventilator Challenge UK Consortium to produce two new types of ventilator to be deployed by the NHS.

BAE Systems Lancashire military aircraft factories at Samlesbury and Warton are set to be involved in producing electronic sub-systems for the medical devices and already assemble life-support systems with oxygen masks using similar techniques, for warplanes.

Rolls-Royce, which has two factories in Barnoldswick, is to set up a parallel supply chain to feed in materials quickly to a new assembly plant being delivered by GKN.

Craig Askew, the firm’s executive vice president of control systems, said: “Rolls-Royce has a crucial role to play in the fight against COVID-19.

“We are proud to be playing our part in a consortium dedicated to scaling up production of much-needed ventilators and will be focused on working at full-speed to provide devices which can help save lives. I would like to thank all my colleagues for rising to this challenge.”

A BAE Systems spokesman said: "We will be providing integrated, tested sub-systems and components, which makes best use of our strong project management and engineering skills, while saving significant time during final assembly of the ventilators.

"This is a fantastic reflection on our employees’ commitment to help the UK at this time. They have worked tirelessly to support the ventilator initiative and continue to look at other ways to help the NHS and the nation.”

The consortium is led by Dick Elsy, chief executive of High Value Manufacturing Catapult, a group of manufacturing research centres in the UK. He is the former boss of Lancashire firm Tototrak.

The group has evaluated all requirements to design, manufacture, assemble and test components, as well as finished medical ventilators.

Mr Elsy said: “This consortium brings together some of the most innovative companies in the world. They are working together with incredible determination and energy to scale up production of much-needed ventilators.”

Also involved are existing ventilator manufacturers Penlon and The Smiths Group; and firms including UK-based F1 teams; Siemens; Dell; Microsoft; Unilever and Airbus.