The Defence Evaluation and Research Agency plans to invite bids soon for a 1,000 tonne demonstrator vessel to be used to determine whether a trimaran hull form could be adopted for British warships.
Worth between £10m and £20m, the 100m vessel will be built in a British shipyard. Yards expected to bid for the contract include Vosper Thornycroft and Yarrow Shipbuilders, plus commercial yards including A&P Appledore.
Companies outside shipbuilding like British Aerospace and BMT could also bid as prime contractors.
A contract is planned for early 1998 and the Dera-owned ship must be ready for its first Royal Navy sea trials in the second half of 2000.
With a diesel-electric propulsion system, the trimaran must be capable of reaching 22 knots and should be able to maintain 18 knots in very rough, sea state 6, conditions. Facilities for 12 crew and 12 scientists are required.
Dera will own the vessel and make it available to British and allied military and industrial customers for trials.
The Dera decision to own the vessel ends plans to persuade industry to finance its construction under the Private Finance Initiative.