LONDON (AFP) — The government has given a green light for the construction of two new "super-aircraft carriers" for the country's Royal Navy, the defence ministry said Tuesday.
The carriers, to be named Her Majesty's Ship (HMS) Queen Elizabeth and HMS Prince of Wales, will be the biggest and most powerful surface warships ever constructed in Britain, the Ministry of Defence (MoD) said in a statement.
Each ship will cost 3.9 billion pounds.
The ships, which will be 919 feet long by 70 metres wide and displace 65,000 tonnes full load carrying up to 40 aircraft, are expected to enter service in 2014 and 2016 respectively and be operational for 50 years.
Defence Secretary Des Browne said they will provide Britain's front-line forces with "modern, world-class capabilities", supporting peace-keeping and conflict prevention as well as "strategic operational priorities".
"This is an important day for the project and I am delighted that we are moving closer to signing the contracts for the manufacture of the carriers," he said.
Britain's top naval officer, First Sea Lord and Chief of the Naval Staff Admiral Jonathon Band said the ships would "transform the UK's defence capabilities". The MoD said they would also secure 10,000 jobs.
The country's largest defence firm, BAE Systems, and VT Group will be part of a consortium that will construct and assemble the new carriers at shipyards in Glasgow and Rosyth, Scotland; Portsmouth, on England's south coast; and Barrow-in-Furness, in northwest England.
Britain's Babcock and the British arm of French defence firm Thales will also be part of the alliance.
The Ministry of Defence said it had completed all financial, commercial and management arrangements and has written to industry to say they are ready to sign contracts as soon as the joint venture is in place.
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