An unmanned submarine-hunting helicopter is being created in Somerset - and it could fly by 2025

Leonardo is one of the world's leading helicopter manufacturers

A project to create an unmanned helicopter which could track enemy submarines is set to get underway in Somerset.

Up to 100 jobs are set to be secured in Yeovil after helicopter-maker Leonardo picked up a £60million contract.

The firm, which is one of Somerset's biggest employers, has been tasked with creating an unmanned aircraft which will be used as a demonstrator by the Ministry of Defence.

With between 60 and 100 people working on the project, the uncrewed helicopter should take its first flight in 2025.

The demonstrator is set to weigh three tonnes and could provide an alternative to current aircraft for tracking enemy submarines.

The trials will test the capability of the aircraft to drop 'sonobuoys', small tube-shaped buoys that track and communicate submarine activity, enabling the aircraft to alert a crewed helicopter and call for support if a submarine is located.

The aircraft will be designed to operate at a lower cost than crewed helicopters. The aim of the project is to reduce the exposure of Royal Navy personnel to hostile threats.

Leonardo Helicopters managing director Adam Clarke said: "Uncrewed VTOL (vertical take-off and landing) aircraft will transform military capability whilst also having application in other market sectors, both in the UK and around the world.

"This contract represents a major step towards our future in next-generation uncrewed military technology and the sustainment of unique engineering skills onshore."

Minister for Defence Procurement, Jeremy Quin, said: "The global threat is changing, and it is crucial we remain at the forefront of defence innovation.

"Exploring cutting-edge, new defence capabilities through programmes with key British manufacturers, will help to ensure our Armed Forces are equipped to deal with the latest threats."

The four-year contract will support up to 100 highly-skilled engineering jobs at Leonardo’s Yeovil site.