The Royal Navy has selected Babcock as its preferred bidder to build the UK’s new fleet of five Type 31 frigates as part of the UK Government’s planned expansion of the Royal Navy fleet over the next 20 years.

The ships will cost around £250m per vessel and once complete will be based across the world, rather than in from UK ports. The new Babcock Arrowhead 140 ships, will be designated Type 31 by the Royal Navy. The programme will be led by Babcock with support from Thales.

The ships will be smaller than the Type 26 fleet currently under construction and due to replace the Type 23 with the first Type 31 set to launch as early as 2023.

Babcock CEO Archie Bethel said: “It has been a tough competition and we are absolutely delighted that Arrowhead 140 has been recognised as offering the best design, build and delivery solution for the UK’s Royal Navy Type 31 frigates.”

The multi-role Type 31 is designed to operate in a range of environments, with Thales providing the combat management system for the ship.

Bethel added: “Driven by innovation and backed by experience and heritage, Arrowhead 140 is a modern warship that will meet the maritime threats of today and tomorrow, with British ingenuity and engineering at its core. It provides a flexible, adaptable platform that delivers value for money and supports the UK’s National Shipbuilding Strategy.”

The Ministry of Defence and Babcock will now finalise programme costs and suppliers before issuing a formal contract to build the ships.

Thales UK chief executive Victor Chavez said: “With the announcement today that Arrowhead 140 has been selected as the preferred bidder for the new Type 31e frigate, the Royal Navy will join the global community of 26 navies utilising the Thales Tacticos combat management system.

“Thales already provides the eyes and ears of the Royal Navy and will now provide the digital heart of the UK’s next-generation frigates.”

Babcock’s Rosyth facility will provide the main integration centre for the programme with several shipyards across the UK set to work on the new frigates.

The new frigates are out of the national shipbuilding strategy and are a core part of the Royal Navy’s plans to arrest fleet decline for the time in 70 years.