Rheinmetall BAE Systems Land (RBSL) has begun work on delivering more than 260 of the Boxer Mechanised Infantry Vehicle at its Hadley Castle Works site, having invested £40m in the 29-acre facility – a move which will provide a major boost to the local economy.
The last time a platform started manufacture at the Hadley Castle Works site was in 1986 with the production of the Warrior fleet, which is still in service today.
Manufacture of the first Terrier production hull began in January 2010 at the company’s former Scotswood Road site in Newcastle.
Colin McClean, RBSL Managing Director, said the start of manufacturing in Telford was major news not only nationally and internationally but also in terms of Shropshire and the local economy.
"The Boxer that we have started to manufacture today is contracted to be delivered in a year's time and this is absolutely massive news, not only for our company but also for the nation," he said.
"This factory is a national strategic asset in terms of what it can deliver, producing world-class armoured fighting vehicles for the British Army and our Allies and this is about protecting the nation and providing security and prosperity for the country. What we do here has always been important but certainly the war in Ukraine has reminded people of the importance and we will continue to deliver for British soldiers.
"But, more locally, this also means prosperity for our employees and the local supply chain around us, so this is an important piece of history and a momentous day.
"RBSL, as a company, has doubled in size in the last three years," Mr McClean added. "We were a business of 350 people and we are now over 700 people. Within that number we have 100 local apprentices, who we are hugely proud of and who we see as the future.
"We work with local colleges to ensure we have a rolling programme, bringing in the next generation every year and what our apprentices have brought to us has been amazing. Some of the facilities we see here, on the shop floor now, have been designed by some of the apprentices.
"And we also source locally which helps with our resilience and flexibility in producing the Boxer and it adds to local and national prosperity."
Mr McClean added: “RBSL is proud to be regenerating this armoured vehicle capability and contributing to the Land Industry Strategy, marking a new chapter in vehicle manufacture for the UK defence industry.
“Not only will the delivery of Boxer provide the British Army with a complete step-change in capability to meet their MIV requirement, it will also protect vital engineering and manufacturing skills as a sovereign capability to the UK and we are incredibly proud to be a part of this milestone, alongside our partners in WFEL.”
The Boxer programme will deliver more than 600 vehicles to the British Army. Production has been subcontracted equally between RBSL and Stockport-based WFEL.
Both companies will undertake fabrication of the armoured vehicle structures together with assembly, integration and test of the complete vehicles at their respective facilities. Current orders are delivered on one shift, with additional capacity for further orders and export.
RSBL has transformed its Hadley Castle Works site into a world-class manufacturing facility so that the business can deliver next generation military vehicles and essential in-service support.
This includes the installation of system integration labs which will support both Boxer and the British Army’s Challenger 3 Main Battle Tanks through life with updates and upgrades; new cranes, welding equipment and surface treatment facilities and new test facilities, including a 1.6km test track and a turret test rig – the largest in Europe.
Mr McClean added: “Over the last two-and-a-half years, our employees have been working hard to prepare us for ‘M Day’ – Manufacturing Day.
"We have developed new manufacturing capabilities, state-of-the-art facilities, tools and IT infrastructure, and we have invested heavily in our people through recruitment, specialist training and development, ensuring we have the right, high-performing team to deliver our future.
“RBSL has a proud heritage of working with the British Army and remains the Design Authority for almost all of the UK’s in-service armoured vehicle fleet. The Boxer MIV Programme builds on that relationship and marks a new chapter in vehicle manufacture for the UK defence industry. This is truly an exciting time to be part of RBSL.
“We are all looking forward to seeing Boxer vehicles running down the production lines and then around the test track, whilst we continue to work closely with our industry partners and customers to deliver this much-needed capability to British soldiers and their allies. Together we are one team, with one mission.”
Billy Grew, a fourth year engineering apprentice from Newport, said: "This marks a new chapter for the company and we are proud to be part of this milestone."