The UK Ministry of Defence (MoD) has awarded a £3.7bn contract to BAE Systems for the construction of the first three Type 26 frigates for the Royal Navy.

The development of the first three vessels is part of the Type 26 Global Combat Ship programme, which is expected to help generate approximately 1,700 shipbuilding jobs across the company.

A further 1,700 job opportunities throughout the UK's wider maritime supply chain will also be created until 2035.

UK Defence Secretary Michael Fallon said: “The Type 26 frigate is a cutting-edge warship, combining the expertise of the British shipbuilding industry with the excellence of the Royal Navy.

“We will cut steel on the first ship later this month, a hugely significant milestone that delivers on our commitment to maintain our global naval power.

"These ships will be a force to be reckoned with, there to protect our powerful new carriers and helping keep British interests safe across the world.

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“Backed by a rising defence budget and a £178bn Equipment Plan, the Type 26 programme will bring vast economic benefits to Scotland and the wider UK.”

The Type 26 programme currently has more than 1,200 employees and 33 UK and international companies in the UK supply chain.

Type 26 anti-submarine warfare vessels have been designed to replace the Type 23 frigates, and can be deployed worldwide to carry out a wide range of operations from high-intensity warfare to humanitarian assistance.

The ships can either operate independently or as part of a task group and will be capable of protecting UK’s nuclear deterrent and the Royal Navy’s new aircraft carriers.

"Backed by a rising defence budget and a £178bn Equipment Plan, the Type 26 programme will bring vast economic benefits to Scotland and the wider UK."

Royal Navy Chief of Naval Staff and First Sea Lord admiral Sir Philip Jones said: “Although designed to fight and win in the most demanding scenarios, they will also work alongside our international partners to protect and promote the UK’s interests around the world.”

The UK Government is committed to manufacture eight advanced anti-submarine warfare vessels, as stated in the 2015 Strategic Defence and Security Review (SDSR).

The steel cutting for the first ship is expected to take place in Glasgow in the coming weeks.

An additional contract for the second batch of five Type 26 frigates is expected to be negotiated in the early 2020s.

Image: A rendering of the British Royal Navy's new Type 26 frigate. Photo: courtesy of BAE Systems.