Rolls-Royce secured a longterm role yesterday on a £1.3 billion project to develop engines for the next generation of stealth fighters.
The contract awarded by the US government means the UK-based company and its joint venture partner General Electric can launch a full development and testing programme that is expected to run until September 2013.
It is a boost for about 200 workers who have been involved in early-stage development work on the F136 engine at Rolls-Royce's Bristol plant.
The contract award - valued at $2.4 billion (£1.33 billion) - is the second involving the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter after Pratt & Whitney secured development work on an F135 engine for the plane.
Production of the fighters could reach 6,000 over the next 30 years and include a longterm replacement for the UK's Harrier and Sea Harrier.
Lockheed Martin is leading the project, which also involves BAE Systems.
In addition to full-scale development, the contract includes the production and qualification of 14 engines - seven for ground test and six plus one spare for flight tests.
The first engine is expected to test in mid-2008.
GE has a 60 per cent stake in the programme, with Rolls also carrying out work on the contract at its plant in Indianapolis, United States.
Meanhile yesterday, the man at the centre of a dispute at a Rolls- Royce factory warned that a strike by engineers in his support would hit production "by the hour".
Jerry Hicks said he was heartened by the support of fellow members of Amicus who mounted a picket line outside the Bristol plant yesterday as part of an indefinite walkout.
The company said Mr Hicks was sacked for organising unlawful industrial action earlier in the summer.
Amicus said Mr Hicks had been targeted because he was a trade union activist.
Mr Hicks said: "The company has had several opportunities to resolve this dispute and they can still end it by telephoning me and asking me to return to my job.
"I have never felt so proud in my life at the courage of people prepared to do something on a point of principle, and I have never felt so ashamed of Rolls-Royce."
Almost 100 workers joined the strike.
Amicus is preparing to ballot around 800 other workers at the plant for industrial action in a major escalation of the dispute.
The union has not ruled out widening the action to R-R plants in the Midlands.
About 3,600 workers are employed at the Bristol site.