A LANCASHIRE fighter-jet manufacturer has reported half-year earnings of over £1billion.

BAE Systems, which has plants in Samlesbury and Warton, says that the "strong" half year results, released today show that it is on course to meet its growth targets.

This has been driven by sales of fighter aircraft, including the Typhoon, F-35 and Hawk.

BAE Systems chief executive Charles Woodburn said: "Thanks to the outstanding efforts of our employees across the group, we have delivered a strong first half performance which underlines our confidence in the full year guidance for top line growth, margin expansion and three-year cash targets.

"We are well positioned for sustained growth in the coming years and are ramping up our investments in advanced technologies to deliver capabilities for our customers in the face of an evolving threat environment.

"Following the decisive action taken to accelerate our UK deficit pension payments in 2020, the committed investment in the business coupled with the good operational performance, we are driving enhanced cash generation.

"This enables us today to announce a 5 per cent increase in the interim dividend as well as initiating a new share buyback programme of up to £500million."

BAE Systems confirmed its earnings totalled £1.03billion during the six months to June 30, 2021, a rise from £849million which it posted during the same period in 2020.

The company says that highlights from the first half of 2021 include winning a £250million contract from the Ministry of Defence to design and develop the UK's Tempest combat aircraft programme, beginning work on producing new aircraft for the German air force and continuing to produce Typhoon and Hawk aircraft for Qatar.

This also saw 270 apprentices and graduates join the company, many of them at the Lancashire plants.

The first half of 2021 however, also saw the company embroiled in controversies with groups like the Lancashire Peace Forum and the Campaign Against the Arms criticising the use of BAE jet components by the Israeli military in its attacks on Palestinian territories in May this year.

This reached a head on May 28, when protesters from Blackburn and beyond 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."