Britain awards missile maker MBDA contract worth 184 million stg

A replica of an F-35 Lightning fighter is seen in early morning light on the golf course at the Celtic Manor resort, near Newport, in Wales September 4, 2014. The resort is the venue for the two day NATO summit which starts today. REUTERS/Rebecca Naden

LONDON (Reuters) - Britain awarded missile maker MBDA an 184 million pound ($239 million) contract on Tuesday to equip the country’s new F-35 fighter jets with heat-seeking air-to-air weaponry.

The Ministry of Defence said in a statement that the deal with MBDA, a company owned by Franco-German group Airbus, Britain’s BAE Systems and Italy’s Leonardo Finmeccanica, would sustain 400 jobs in Britain.

The Advanced Short Range Air-to-Air Missile (ASRAAM) contract is among the first significant contracts to be handed out by Britain’s new government after Theresa May became prime minister last month following the country’s vote to leave the European Union.

Under the contract, MBDA will manufacture an additional stockpile of an updated version of the weapon. The current version of ASRAAM is being used on RAF Typhoon and Tornado aircraft on missions in Iraq and Syria.

Britain has ordered 138 Lockheed Martin F-35B Lightning II stealth jets, some of which will fly from its two new aircraft carriers.

($1 = 0.7711 pounds)

Reporting by Sarah Young; editing by Jason Neely