Vosper Thornycroft is a front-runner to win a United Arab Emirates order for six missile-armed patrol boats worth several hundred million pounds.
The order could be placed in March at the Idex defence exhibition in Abu Dhabi, where Vosper will unveil its ocean capable patrol boat. French, German and Dutch shipyards are the rivals.
A new Vosper corvette design which could meet a separate UAE requirement for up to six corvettes, will also be unveiled at Idex. Competition is from a US firm and European yards.
A European naval industry source said the UAE could be interested in buying from two to six minehunters – for which Vosper is also bidding – before it goes ahead with the corvettes.
Industry sources believe British companies benefited from delaying a defence cooperation agreement with the UAE signed last December. The US and France signed deals earlier, credited with helping them to win major UAE defence orders.
If Vosper wins the patrol boat deal, the vessels would be built by Abu Dhabi Shipbuilders. The boat is a 65m design with `stealth’ features using a composite superstructure and advanced signature reduction methods. The more heavily armed corvette is a 95m design carrying a helicopter with similar stealth characteristics.