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Economy Minister Diane Dodds today welcomed news that Northern Ireland-based firm Thales UK has won a £98.4 million extension to its contract to maintain Short-Range Air Defence (SHORAD) for the Army and the Royal Marines.

The decision by the Ministry of Defence to extend the contract by five years will safeguard 119 jobs in Thales UK, which secured the initial contract in 2018.

The Minister said: “Northern Ireland’s reputation for skills and innovation in engineering has been endorsed once again with this award. We should be proud of the fact that it is Northern Ireland expertise which ensures the UK’s vital air defences are properly maintained and readily available to deploy at a moment’s notice if necessary.

“Our economic recovery will lean heavily on our strengths in advanced engineering in fields such as defence. That is why this is an important development.

“This vital investment, which will protect over 100 jobs, is some timely good news during a challenging period. I send my congratulations to Thales UK.”

Through the contract, Thales UK will help to modernise and develop the missile systems as part of the Future Air Defence Availability Project (F-ADAPT). SHORAD is made up of High Velocity and Lightweight Multi-role Missile systems which can intercept air threats including fast jets, attack helicopters and unmanned air systems in a matter of seconds.

This is the second multi-million-pound defence contract awarded to a Northern Ireland-based industry this year. In January, Spirit AeroSystems in Belfast, won a £30 million contract for the UK’s first un-crewed fighter aircraft supporting around 100 jobs.