UNION leaders voiced fears today about the job implications of moves by the Indian government to give preferred bidder status to a French firm for a lucrative order for fighter planes ahead of a consortium including BAE Systems.
The UK defence giant has been hoping to partly assemble 126 Eurofighter Typhoon jets at Warton and Samlesbury for the Indian air force.
India's government has signalled that French firm Dassault put in a lower bid for its Rafale jets, although no formal statement has been made.
Sources at BAE said it was "far from a done deal" and that no contract has been awarded to Dassault.
A company spokesman said: "BAE Systems notes that Eurofighter Typhoon has not been assessed as the lowest-priced compliant bidder by the Indian ministry of defence at this stage of the tendering process for supply of its new medium multi-role combat aircraft.
"Our partner, Cassidian, submitted an attractive and competitive proposal to supply Eurofighter Typhoon, the world's most modern medium multi-role combat aircraft available today.
"We believe Eurofighter Typhoon offers the best military, industrial and economic solution for India.
"We will continue to support the Indian customer and its evaluation process and work with our European partner companies and their respective governments to seek to understand the basis of the announcement."
Unite warned that the selection of a French fighter aircraft for the multibillion-pound contract could have serious implications for BAE Systems and the UK aerospace industry.
National officer Ian Waddell said: "We are seeking confirmation from BAE Systems that Rafale has been selected as their preferred fighter by India.
"The Typhoon is a superb aircraft which supports thousands of highly skilled jobs in the UK, both at BAE Systems and in the supply chain.
"We are concerned about the serious implications this decision may have and want urgent talks with the company about future plans for the workforce.
"There are other export orders to be won and it is critical that the company maintains its commitment to Typhoon despite this setback."
The CSEU, an umbrella body for manufacturing unions, is meeting the MoD's Procurement Minister, Peter Luff, next week and the unions will raise this issue as a priority.
Unite said it will continue to concentrate its efforts to deal with the 3,000 potential redundancies at BAE Systems at Brough, Samlesbury and Warton which were announced late last year.