The UK Ministry of Defence (MoD) has awarded a contract to BAE Systems to buy parts for the Royal Navy's three new offshore patrol vessels (OPVs), the UK defence equipment, support and technology minister Philip Dunne has announced.
Under the £20m contract, BAE will begin work on parts including the engines and gearboxes, which require a longer time to make and consequently have to be ordered prior to the main shipbuilding programme.
In November 2013, the MoD announced its plan to procure three ocean-going offshore patrol vessels from BAE systems subject to approvals.
Dunne said, "This £20m is a significant milestone, critical to the successful delivery of these three vessels for the Royal Navy.
"The OPVs will not only provide an additional capability for the UK but also, at its peak, the OPV programme will safeguard more than 800 vital skilled roles in the shipbuilding industry."
The Royal Navy is scheduled to receive the first of the three vessels in 2017, which are likely to replace the current, smaller River-class vessels, although a final decision will be made in the next strategic defence and security review.
Designed to support counter-terrorism, counter-piracy and anti-smuggling operations in the waters around the UK and other UK interests abroad, the OPVs will be larger, with more storage and accommodation facilities and a larger flight deck for Merlin helicopters when compared with the current River-class ships.
The company will begin construction of the OPVs for the Royal Navy later this year at its Clyde shipyards.
Image: BAE Systems Naval Ships managing director Mick Ord and UK defence minister Philip Dunne view a computer-generated image of the Royal Navy's new OPV. Photo: copyright BAE Systems.