UK Defence Procurement Minister Stuart Andrew has announced that five bidders have been selected for the British Royal Navy’s Fleet Solid Support ships contract.

A total of eight shipbuilding companies submitted their proposals for the competition.

Selected bidders include four international shipbuilding companies in Italian firm Fincantieri, Spanish company Navantia, Japan Marine United Corporation, and Daewoo Shipbuilding and Marine Engineering of South Korea.

The fifth contender is a British consortium comprising Babcock, BAE Systems, Cammell Laird and Rolls-Royce.

The 2015 Strategic Defence & Security Review (SDSR) confirmed the need for the three Military Afloat Reach & Sustainability (MARS) Fleet Solid Support capability.

Fleet Solid Support vessels will be required to service the Royal Navy’s Queen Elizabeth-class aircraft carriers and their new F-35 Lightning II joint strike fighter jets.

“These support ships will be vital for supporting our formidable Queen Elizabeth-class carriers.”

These vessels will serve as a key part of the UK Maritime Task Group and will deliver ammunition, food, and supplies to British forces deployed throughout the world.

Andrew said: “The widespread interest in this competition shows that our Royal Navy and Royal Fleet Auxiliary remain among the most prestigious in the world.

“These support ships will be vital for supporting our formidable Queen Elizabeth-class carriers and will ensure our warships can deploy in a range of challenging environments and across huge distances, wherever they are in the world.”

Three Fleet Solid Support ships will be equipped with ‘specialist and classified equipment’. These civilian-manned vessels will be armed with weapons that will be used only for self-defence purposes.

These ships will be acquired through international competition and will commence service with the Royal Fleet Auxiliary from 2026.

The final decision about the winning bidder will be made in 2020.