A FIGHTER-JET manufacturer that has been at the centre of several local protests has said it is building 'the factory of the future.'

BAE Systems, which has plants in Samlesbury and Warton, says that its planned digital transformation programme will allow the company to utilise robots, 'intelligent' work stations and to create and view live data.

The technology is being installed by software company PTC and will be used on various projects including the Tempest fighter jet programme.

BAE Systems senior integration engineer Alex Griffiths said: "We have intelligent workstations that deliver tools to engineers by autonomous robot before operators even know they need them.

"Our challenge is to create the optimal production environment for aircraft manufacture, where we can switch from one short batch product to another, with minimal effort and cost in the process.

The digital technology will be used to harvest real time data from different robots and will acceleration production time.

"This is crucial as we look to develop the next generation of manufacturing technology required for Tempest, the UK’s future combat air system, and to meet our commitments to deliver in half the time and at significantly less cost.”

He added: "It’s about changing the way we make things and moving away from traditional techniques, looking at how we can create production lines that can be adapted quickly to take on different products, whether that is a low volume unmanned vehicle requirement or a future fighter aircraft."

BAE Systems says that this could also be an opportunity for engineers to hone their skills using the most up-to-date software.

PTC UKI general manager Dave Grammer said: "Controlling industrial data and using it intelligently has created the perfect environment to develop and test technologies that will potentially transform the way military aircraft and combat systems are implemented.

“It is also giving young engineers early access to IIoT platforms and software, which can only be good news for their career development.”

However, the announcement comes after a period in which the company has faced heavy criticism, locally and further afield over the destinations of the aircraft it has been helping to build.

In particular groups like the Lancashire Peace Forum and the Campaign Against the Arms trade have criticised the use of BAE jet components by the Israeli military in its recent attacks on Palestinian territories.

On May 28 protesters gathered outside the company's Samlesbury plant to call upon BAE Systems to stop supplying components of the US F-35 Joint Strike Fighter Program to Israel.

Protesters returned to the factory gates on June 4 with 69 cardboard coffins, each signifying a child killed during the Israeli bombing of Gaza.

Commenting on the role played by the Lancashire plant, Campaign Against the Arms Trade Spokesperson Andrew Smith said: "BAE Systems has a long and shameful history of arming and supporting human rights abusers and selling weapons into conflict zones.

"These sales aren't just numbers on a spreadsheet, they are potentially deadly."

Responding to concerns over the sale of weapons components a BAE Systems spokesperson had said: “Our activities are subject to compliance with international trade control requirements, including US and UK trade control regulations, and our own responsible business trading principles.”