LONDON, Feb. 23 (UPI) -- Britain plans to order four 35,000-ton fuel tankers for the British navy's auxiliary fleet from Daewoo Shipbuilding and Marine Engineering of South Korea.
The order, announced by Britain's Ministry of Defense, is worth $700 million and is the third-largest defense export-related order for the Asian nation order.
It did not come, however, without dissent. The British Labor Party's shadow Defense Secretary Jim Murphy called the order a loss for British industry.
"This is more bad news for British industry," he said. "First we lose out to France over fast jets (for India) and now we lose out to South Korea over (navy) tankers.
"The government (does) not have an active defense industrial strategy. I'd like to see more of our defense industry with a 'Made in Britain' stamp on it."
The Military Afloat Reach and Sustainability tankers for the fleet auxiliary will provide at-sea refueling capability for Britain's warships and well as support troops ashore. They will also be able to land helicopters. They are also capable of carrying food and other materials for navy vessels.
The Ministry of Defense said the double-hulled vessels will enter service from 2016.
A number of British companies bid for the contract and the government said, although they did not win, British industry will benefit from associated contracts, including systems, design and support services and specialist engineering support.
The ships to be produced by Daewoo are part of a multimillion-dollar investment by Britain in navy assets.
"Over the next decade, the government will be investing billions of pounds in our maritime capabilities to ensure that our (navy) remains a formidable fighting force," said Minister for Defense Equipment, Support and Technology Peter Luff. "This project will inject up to ($236 million) into U.K. industry and support and maintenance will also be carried out in the U.K.
"The government remains committed to building complex warships in U.K. shipyards."
Britain's chief of Defense Materiel, Bernard Gray, explained that "competition for the contract sought to engage shipbuilders from across the globe. I believe the winning bidder's solution will offer the U.K. the best value for money."
"The MARS tanker is an exceptionally versatile platform, able to simultaneously refuel an aircraft carrier and destroyer while undertaking helicopter resupply of other vessels," he said. "I am looking forward to the award of the contract and the work that will follow in the lead up to the delivery of the ships."
The British intent to order the ships from Daewoo coincides with an order the company has received for $1.08 billion worth of submarines from Indonesia, and another for K-9 self-propelled artillery from Turkey worth $1 billion.
The three diesel-powered submarines are to be delivered to Indonesia in the first half of 2018.