Dec. 11 (UPI) -- Three shipbuilders have been awarded contracts to plan construction of five Type 31e warships for the United Kingdom's Royal Navy, the U.K. Ministry of Defense announced.
The companies included in the deal are BAE Systems, Atlas Electronik U.K. and Babcock, which have been tentatively selected for the $1.6 billion production of the new frigates, Defense Minister Stuart Andrew said in Portsmouth, England, on Monday.
The contracts are worth about $6.2 million dollars each.
The Ministry of Defense plans to announce the final choice of builder next year, with the first ship to be delivered in 2023, Andrew said.
The ships will complement the eight Type 26 frigates planned to be operational by the mid 2020's.
"This is the first frigate competition the UK has run in a generation, and today we are funding three shipbuilding teams with extremely exciting concepts to continue developing their plans," Andrew said.
The proposed Type 31e General Purpose Frigate would be a relatively low-cost light frigate also intended for export, according to the Ministry of Defense.