A �483m contract to develop the next generation naval air defence system has been awarded to MBDA by the Ministry of Defence, it was revealed today (Monday).

The massive deal will mean the safeguarding of about 230 jobs for a number of years at the company’s Stevenage plant.

A jubilant MBDA UK managing director, Steve Wadey, said: “MBDA and its predecessors have been a major employer here in Stevenage for over 50 years and a major contributor to the successful Libyan campaign with the RAF using our innovative Dual Mode Brimstone missile.

“This new contract for the Sea Ceptor air defence system for the Royal Navy’s frigates means that the many engineers (around 230) and technologies involved in developing such world class missiles can be sustained and keep Stevenage at the centre of the UK’s missile development.”

Stevenage MP Stephen McPartland said: “This is absolutely fantastic news and once again shows that Stevenage is leading the way with high technology.

“I have worked closely with ministers and MBDA and I am delighted that MBDA has won this project.”

Stevenage Borough Council leader Sharon Taylor said: “These kind of high tech jobs are exactly what Stevenage wants. Securing the jobs for the town is so important. The future is high tech.

“MBDA is such a great company contributing to the community with apprentice schemes and working with schools. I am so pleased the contract has been awarded to them, it is well deserved.”

Sea Ceptor will replace the Vertical Launch Seawolf currently in service on the Royal Navy’s Type 23 frigates.

Significantly, it is also planned to be the principal air defence system on the successor Type 26 Global Combat Ship.

Under an agreement signed between MBDA and the MoD last March, the company has responsibility to lead the transformation of the UK’s complex weapons capability through the management of a portfolio of projects potentially worth up to �4b over 10 years.

Talking about Sea Ceptor, the minister for defence equipment, support and technology, Peter Luff, said: “The development of this missile system is a huge boost to the UK’s world-leading missile industry and once again proves our commitment to providing battle-winning technology to our armed forces.”

It is expected Sea Ceptor will enter service in the middle of this decade.