UK fighter jets have flown for the first time with parts made using 3D printing technology and designed by BAE Systems workers in Lancashire.

The components were designed by staff based at Samlesbury and Warton, as part of a collaborative project, led by Cranfield University.

BAE Systems said the metal parts were successfully used on board Tornado aircraft which flew from the defence firm's airfield at Warton late last month.

The company said its engineers were using 3D technology to design and produce parts which could cut the Royal Air Force's maintenance and service bill by more than £1.2 million over the next four years. They said the project had demonstrated how 3D printing could revolutionise the way aircraft were produced in the future.

BAE Systems is working at RAF Marham, Norfolk, to engineer ready-made parts for four squadrons of Tornado GR4 aircraft, including protective covers for cockpit radios and guards for power take-off shafts.

Some of the parts cost less than £100 to produce.

Mike Murray, head of airframe integration at BAE Systems, said: “You are suddenly not fixed in terms of where you have to manufacture these things.

“You can manufacture the products at whatever base you want, providing you can get a machine there, which means you can also start to support other platforms such as ships and aircraft carriers.

“And if it's feasible to get machines out on the frontline, it also gives improved capability where we wouldn't traditionally have any manufacturing support.”