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Boeing Vows New Jobs if Britain Buys AWACS

November 12, 1986|From Times Wire Services

LONDON — Boeing Co., the Seattle-based aircraft maker, promised Tuesday to create more than 50,000 jobs in Britain if the Royal Air Force chooses Boeing AWACS planes rather than the locally made Nimrod system to meet Britain's airborne early warning needs.

The British government is facing an agonizing decision and possible political storm over its choice of a new airborne surveillance system to replace the hopelessly antiquated reconnaissance planes that guard its coasts against possible Soviet attack.

It has to choose between the all-British and much-delayed Nimrod system, which was expected to be operational in 1984 and has already cost about $1.3 billion to develop, and Boeing's system, which costs more but works better.

Boeing, the world's leading passenger jet manufacturer, submitted its "best and final" offer to the Ministry of Defense last week, and the British Cabinet will make its choice in December.

Defense officials say the RAF favors Boeing's AWACS (airborne warning and control system), which is already in service with the U.S. Air Force, the North Atlantic Treaty Organization and in Saudi Arabia.

But if it opts for a foreign system, the government could face accusations that it has thrown away taxpayers' money on Nimrod and is failing to back British industry.

The British government is wary of sparking another controversy similar to the Westland uproar of last January. The rescue of the British helicopter company by the U.S. Sikorsky group blew up into one of Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher's worst crises.

A central issue was the argument about protecting and developing Britain's own high-tech industries.

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