TUESDAY was a black day for hundreds of families when the news they were dreading was confirmed - that 500 jobs are to be axed at the Vale's DARA facility.

Maintenance work on RAF fighter jets is to end at the Defence Aviation Repair Agency in St Athan in April 2007.

The cuts are part of a total of 725 job losses at DARA facilities across the UK, and follow the loss of 500 jobs in November 2004.

DARA's engine maintenance business in Fleetlands, Hampshire, will be shutting with 225 jobs going by March 2007.

Furthermore, some 1,200 job losses are also anticipated at other defence repair and maintenance services nationwide.

The blow comes just a week after the first plane arrived at St Athan as part of the major new ATC Lasham contract, which could potentially create between 250 and 300 jobs over the next 18 months.

Vale of Glamorgan MP John Smith has reassured workers that the ATC Lasham work will remain at the base, as will the VC10 servicing work.

Mr Smith said: "Of course I am deeply disappointed at the announcement.

"But it comes as no surprise to me when the Government announced it intended to take the Tornado Jets, which constituted 40 per cent of the DARA UK workforce.

"It was only a matter of time before it was disbanded.

"Through the Commons Defence Committee, I hope to expose the incoherence of the Government Policy and return fast-jet work to St Athan."

Vale AM Jane Hutt described the job cuts as the "wrong decision".

Ms Hutt said: "My thoughts are now with the workforce and their families, who have been living with this uncertainty, and I will do everything I can to support them through this difficult period.

"As Vale of Glamorgan AM, I will be working very closely with my colleagues in the Welsh Assembly Government, who are determined to secure a future for the St Athan workforce."

And Conservative councillor for St Athan, John Thomas, said: "This is a devastating blow, but we were half expecting it.

"This is devastating not just for the Vale but also for other surrounding areas, who certainly can ill afford to lose these jobs."