Britain awards AgustaWestland 580 million-pound helicopter contract

The AugustaWestland logo at their headquarters in Vergiate, northern Italy, March 13, 2015. REUTERS/Giorgio Perottino

LONDON (Reuters) - Britain’s Ministry of Defence (MoD) said it awarded AgustaWestland, a unit of Italian defence group Finmeccanica, a 580 million-pound ($870 million) contract to maintain and support Royal Navy helicopters.

The 5-year contract for the Royal Navy’s Merlin Mk2 and Mk3 helicopters will help sustain 1,000 jobs primarily in southwest England at facilities in Yeovil and Culdrose, the MoD said.

Britain is investing 11.2 billion pounds in its helicopter fleet over the next 10 years but overall its defence budget has been cut by around 8 percent in real terms since 2010.

The government has committed to meeting NATO’s target of spending 2 percent of Gross Domestic Product on defence in both this financial year and the next, but has said decisions beyond that are for a defence review after a general election on May 7.

Reporting by Sarah Young; editing by Stephen Addison