BAE SYSTEMS has signalled a major switch to innovative manufacturing techniques and automation for its next generation combat aircraft.

It hopes to produce 30 per cent of the components of the Tempest fighter jet through 3D printing and with 50 per cent of the aircraft put together by robots.

Much of the plane, due in service with the Royal Air Force in 2035, will be either manufactured or assembled at its Lancashire Military Aircraft Division plans at Samlesbury and Warton.

Rolls Royce, which has two fan blade factories in Barnoldswick, will be involved in developing the engines for Tempest which is a collaboration with Sweden and Italy.

Dennis Mendoros, founder of Kelbrook’s Euravia Engineering, said: “This will certainly cause short-term turbulence in the East Lancashire aerospace supply chain causing job losses.”

The switch to 3D-printed parts and greater use of robots and highly-automated ‘cobots’ working with a craftsman are part of BAE Systems ‘Factory of the Future’.

Its development using the latest digital technologies is the result of a multi-million pound investment and collaboration with more than 40 companies and academic institutions.

The amount of new manufacturing technology used for Tempest will be far higher than in either the firm’s Eurofighter Typhoon or the F35 Lightning fighter being developed with Lockheed Martin in America. It aims to cut the costs and time-scale involved in Tempest by half.

Dave Holmes, manufacturing director for BAE Systems Air, said: “We’ve collaborated with the best of UK industry and academia to develop a cutting-edge facility that combines current and emerging technologies, ensuring the UK remains at the forefront of combat air technology development.

“Driving our manufacturing capabilities forward will sustain and develop critical skillsets and ensure we can continue to deliver military capability to address future threats, whilst improving productivity and delivering value for money.”

Miranda Barker, chief executive of the East Lancashire Chamber of Commerce, said: “This sea change in our key manufacturing landscape is one we must embrace and evolve with, supporting our traditional firms to develop new skills, to retain as much of the supply chain and specialist manufacturing jobs as possible.”