BAE Systems has been award a £656million contract to continue the development of the RAF’s next generation combat aircraft protecting and creating hundreds of jobs at its Lancashire factories.

The deal for supersonic Tempest warplane is financial confirmation of December’s announcement by Prime Minister Rishi Sunak that the three nation partnership with Japan and Italy to develop the ‘stealth’ fighter was all systems go under a new Global Air Combat Programme.

The latest tranche of Ministry of Defence funding for BAE Systems will build on the ground-breaking science, research and engineering already completed under the first phase of the contract delivered by the firm and its partners Leonardo UK, MBDA UK and Rolls-Royce.

Tempest will replace the Typhoon ‘eurofighter’ by the mid-2030s and the BAE Systems sites at Samlesbury and Warton are crucial locations for developing the plane and its futuristic capabilities.

Bosses at BAE say the project will generate thousands of jobs for engineers and apprentices with many at its two Lancashire sites and wider supply chain in the North-West.

The UK Tempest partners will now work on 60 cutting-edge technology demonstrations, digital concepts and new technologies.

These are critical to the UK’s defence capability and will help shape the final requirements for the combat aircraft due to enter service by 2035.

It is designed to be an innovative stealth fighter with supersonic capability and equipped with cutting-edge technologies, including state-of-the-art sensing and protection capabilities.

This will make the aircraft one of the world’s most advanced, interoperable, adaptable and connected fighter jets in service, delivering battle-winning next generation weapons to protect the UK and its allies.

Defence Secretary and Wyre and Preston North MP Ben Wallace, said: “The next tranche of funding for future combat air will help fuse the combined technologies and expertise we have with our international partners – both in Europe and the Pacific – to deliver this world-leading fighter jet by 2035, protecting our skies for decades to come.”

Herman Claesen, BAE Systems managing director future combat air systems, said: “This contract reflects the continued commitment by the UK Government and ensures we continue to mature this significant programme and the vital technology pipeline that will drive innovation into – and beyond – the combat air sector for decades to come.”

Richard Berthon, the MoD’s director future combat air, said: “This shows that the UK is committed to working with international partners to deliver a next-generation fighter jet for 2035.

“We are facing a growing threat from our adversaries, who are investing in combat air and air defences of their own.”

The programme already has more than 2,800 people working on The Tempest including at almost 600 organisations including small and medium sized enterprises and academic institutions.