The UK Ministry of Defence has signed contracts worth £50 million ($83 million) with BAE Systems and Thales UK to complete the assessment phase of the Future Aircraft Carrier (CVF) programme.

The MoD selected BAE as CVF prime contractor in February this year, but specified the rival Thales carrier design.

The two rival teams have now been combined into a single development group, which has been working on the assessment phase since March.

The assessment phase lasts until March next year, and will include design work and trade off studies, says BAE. There will also be further risk reduction work. The company adds that the carrier design will "evolve, but not fundamentally".

It is expected that some equipment will also be selected, while another aim is to agree the build strategy.

Both bidders propose building the two ships in sections at different shipyards around the UK. The section split of the two designs, however, are different.

A key trade-off during the assessment phase will be the final size of the CVF. Although the designs are for 60,000t ships with 48 aircraft air groups, it is expected the final design will be slightly smaller, with perhaps a 35-40 aircraft air group.

Source: Flight International