BAE Systems, Europe’s biggest defence contractor, added to the gloom surrounding the UK manufacturing sector with the announcement it was closing three sites and cutting 500 jobs.

The proposed cuts, in response to falling orders and less work for the British army, prompted calls from the Prospect defence union for the government to intervene. Prospect said it should stop “dithering” and lay out its defence strategy more clearly.

BAE said the cuts were the result of a decision by the Ministry of Defence to postpone a significant element of the Future Rapid Effects System programme to build a new generation of armoured vehicles for the army and a slowdown in work supporting operations in Iraq and Afghanistan.

“While we clearly regret having to take this step, our forecast UK order intake has reduced and we have to match the size of our business appropriately to the projected nature and volume of workload,” said David Allott, managing director of Global Combat Systems.

BAE said it would close sites in Guildford, Leeds and Telford, resulting in the loss of 330 jobs. It will cut a further 90 posts in Barrow due to slowing production of its M777 lightweight towed howitzer for the US military. New posts means the net loss across UK sites is expected to be 400 jobs.

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