British defence giant BAE Systems is struggling  to secure new orders for the Eurofighter Typhoon jet [Reuters]

British arms manufacturer BAE Systems has said it plans to axe almost 3,000 jobs, mainly at its military aircraft division, as governments slash their defence budgets.

"Our customers are facing huge pressures on their defence budgets and affordability has become an increasing priority," BAE Systems chief executive Ian King said in a statement on Tuesday.

"Our business needs to rise to this challenge to maintain its competitiveness and ensure its long-term future."

The largest number of job cuts will be in northern England at facilities in Brough, where 899 positions will be lost, and in Warton and Samlesbury.

There will also be jobs shed at BAE's head office in Farnborough in the south and at other sites dotted across the country.

The company has also begun a consultation about ending manufacturing at the Brough plant, which currently employs 1,300 people.

'Hammer blow'

The Unite union, which has 1.5 million members in a range of industries, called the large-scale redundancies a "hammer blow" to Britain's defence industry.

BAE Systems said its military aircraft division had been hampered by a slowdown in orders for the Eurofighter Typhoon and F-35 combat jets.

"The four partner nations in the Typhoon programme have agreed to slow production rates to help ease their budget pressures," King said.

"Whilst this will help extend our production schedule and ensure the production line stays open until we receive anticipated export contracts, it does reduce the workload at a number of our sites.

"To ensure we remain competitive, both in the UK and internationally, we need to reduce the overall costs of our businesses in line with our reduced workload."

BAE employs around 100,000 people worldwide, including 40,000 in Britain.

It has a 33 per cent stake in the Eurofighter joint venture company alongside EADS and Finmeccanica, and has received orders for about 550 planes from the four partner-nations involved - the UK, Germany, Italy and Spain.

Source: Agencies