The US Navy has delayed the awarding of a multibillion-dollar contract for new warships, but expects to reach a decision by the end of 2010.

Austal USA and Lockheed were competing for the contract worth $5bn to build ten littoral combat ships (LCS) for the navy, according to Reuters.

Navy spokesman Commander Victor Chen said the two bidding teams would submit their final revised proposals by September with a validity of 90 days.

“The navy intends to make a contract award as expeditiously as practicable, consistent with its source selection plan, but in any event prior to the expiration of such offers,” he said.

The new class of warships will be designed for missions that include fighting pirates, chasing drug-runners and sweeping for mines in shallow coastal waters.

The US Navy has plans to procure 55 ships, increasing the number of vessels in its fleet to 313.