By Peter Wozniak
Government spending cuts in defence could "raze the UK defence industry to the ground", Unite has claimed.
The union cited a study based on work by Oxford Economics to suggest that cuts of 26% to the defence budget could leave 55,000 jobs at risk.
Bernie Hamilton, a Unite officer, condemned the proposed cuts in apocalyptic terms, forging an unlikely ad-hoc alliance between the trade union and defence secretary Liam Fox.
He said: "The Tory led coalition wants to raze the UK defence industry to the ground. It believes wrecking the UK's sovereignty to manufacture defence equipment is a price worth paying."
Mr Hamilton also warned that defence cuts would have a disproportionate effect on poor areas of the UK.
"Tens of thousands of job cuts in some of Britain's most deprived regions will have tragic consequences. These skilled manufacturing jobs won't get replaced," he warned.
The figures include both those directly employed in the industry and in the supply chain.
Unite does not however name the group that conducted the study itself, only that it is "an organisation with strong links to the defence industry".
Last week Scottish politicians met with the defence secretary to put the case for saving existing commitments - warning dramatic cuts would have irreversible effects on Scottish employment.
Dr Fox is known to be concerned about the impact of the savings he is being asked to make, following the leak of a letter from him to the prime minister.
He has fought a losing battle with the chancellor over defence cuts - with the comprehensive spending review overshadowing all other government plans.
Mr Hamilton added: "As the Conservative party conference gets underway the Tories should get used to the fact that their party is no longer the party which can claim to be strong on defence. Instead, it is the party which plans to cripple Britain."