THE Brazilian navy is weighing up whether to order a fleet of 11 new ships from Hampshire warship builder BAE Systems after the company formally submitted its bid for the work.

It’s a crunch decision for the 3,000 Hampshire workers employed in the heritage industry, which desperately needs overseas work to compensate for a reduction in orders for the cash-strapped Royal Navy.

Farnborough-based BAE is aiming to build five ocean patrol vessels, one logistics support vessel and five escort vessels for the Brazilian fleet.

The company, which operates the former VT Group shipyard in Portsmouth, also hopes to win a lucrative support and maintenance deal to look after the fleet.

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All the support work is based in Hampshire, employing 1,500 people.

In a landmark move, the offer allows the Brazilians to partner BAE ship designers in the normally secretive development of the new multi-role Global Combat Ship in a process known as technology transfer.

Although only the first in the class of the ships are likely to be built in the UK, possibly just one or two vessels, the deal would drive down the costs of developing the Global Combat Ship.

That forms the base of the Navy’s planned Type 26 frigate programme, meaning that the service is more likely to take up its full quota of 13 vessels, all of which will be built in the UK.

BAE’s proposal comes on the back of the recent Defence Co-operation Agreement between the UK and Brazilian governments and is part of a bid to boost trade between the two countries.

Alan Johnston, managing director of BAE Systems’ Surface Ships division, said: “We believe that this strategic partnership approach, combined with our proven ship designs, will bring strength to Brazilian industry and give the Brazilian navy confidence in our ability to deliver an effective, affordable solution to meet its future naval capability requirements.

“We are in discussions regarding the naval proposal with a number of potential industry partners in Brazil, including shipyards and combat systems developers.”