The government has agreed to back a massive investment at the aerospace company Shorts in Belfast, a move which could create up to 1,700 jobs.
Bombardier is Northern Ireland's largest manufacturing employer
Shorts parent company, Bombardier, has been offered up to £180m in aid to help launch a new series of aircraft.
The company plans to build the aircraft partly in Belfast.
Northern Ireland Secretary Peter Hain said the announcement represented a "significant opportunity" for the aerospace industry in the province.
"Their confidence in the Belfast plant is a testament to the skills and abilities of the local workforce and will ensure that Northern Ireland retains its position as a market leader in this important business sector," he said.
"The project will generate new technologies and employment opportunities, making a huge contribution to the future social and economic well-being of Northern Ireland."
A new series of aircraft would be partly built in Belfast
He said the project had been secured for Belfast through intensive negotiations between Bombardier, the Department of Trade and Industry and Invest Northern Ireland.
Subject to formal launch of the programme, Bombardier Aerospace Belfast will design and manufacture the wing, engine nacelles and composite tail of the new family of 110 - 130 seat aircraft.
The company would employ an average of 1,700 people throughout the life of the programme but how many of those jobs are new will depend on levels of work elsewhere in the company.
Over the past few years, Shorts has been through a bitter industrial dispute and has shed up to 2,000 jobs.
Michael Ryan, vice president of Bombardier in Belfast, said if the series of aircraft was launched it would ensure the Belfast operation remained at the leading edge of aircraft design and manufacture.
"This contribution from the UK government will help to create or sustain many hundreds of jobs not just in Northern Ireland but throughout our 800 company supply chain in UK. and Ireland," he said.
New UK Trade and Industry Secretary Alan Johnson said government backing for the programme was a "tangible demonstration" of its commitment to the UK aerospace industry.
East Belfast MP Peter Robinson said he was delighted with the news and said it would be a major boost to the area.
He said it provided long term security for the company and was grateful to the work of all involved.
BBC Northern Ireland business editor James Kerr said: "Perhaps the most significant part of this announcement is that it signals Bombardier's long term commitment to the region - something that was of increasing concern to many who work there."