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Defense contractor BAE Systems PLC confirmed Tuesday it is cutting around 3,000 jobs in Britain, in a move unions described as a "hammer blow" to Britain's manufacturing.
In a statement confirming widespread speculation, BAE said the job losses are "in response to changes in key programs and the need to maintain competitiveness."
The company is facing difficult market conditions, in part due to cuts to government defense budgets. It faces defense-spending reviews in the U.K. and U.S.
"Our customers are facing huge pressures on their defense budgets and affordability has become an increasing priority," BAE's Chief Executive Ian King said. "Our business needs to rise to this challenge to maintain its competitiveness and ensure its long term future."
The company said most of the job cuts would be in its military aircraft division, which is being affected by a slowdown in orders for the Eurofighter Typhoon combat jet.
BAE's sites in Warton, northwest England and Brough, in northeast England, will be the hardest hit, losing 843 and 899 jobs respectively.
Britain's Business Secretary Vince Cable said the news "will be a serious knock to the individuals and communities affected."
BAE had earlier declined to confirm details of the job cuts until information about the redundancies could be relayed to staff members at the affected U.K. sites in face-to-face briefings.
Ian Waddell, national officer for the Unite union, said the group's worst fears had been confirmed following days of speculation about job losses.
"It's a dark day for thousands of skilled men and women across the country and it is a dark day for British manufacturing," he said.
Britain has the world's second-largest defense industry after the United States but it's being pressured by government budget cuts.
Waddell said that without intervention from the Ministry of Defense to protect BAE jobs, the U.K.'s reputation as a manufacturing leader is at risk.
"The government cannot sit on its hands and allow these highly skilled jobs to disappear," he said.
London-based BAE Systems employs around 100,000 people worldwide — with about 40,000 staff in the U.K.
In December, BAE announced plans to cut nearly 1,300 jobs due to sharp government spending cuts.
Cassandra Vinograd can be reached at http://twitter.com/CassVinograd