Hundreds of jobs have been safeguarded after the Ministry of Defence signed a £287 million contract for two more Royal Navy ships to be built on the Clyde.

The two offshore patrol vessels (OPVs) will be built at the BAE Systems Govan shipyard before being floated to Scotstoun to be fitted out.

Harriett Baldwin, Minister for Defence Procurement, announced the contract to build the two new ships - HMS Tamar and HMS Spey - on a visit to the yard on Thursday.

The contract with BAE Systems Maritime - Naval Ships will boost the UK's fleet of next-generation river-class OPVs from three to five ships.

The MoD said work on the five new vessels is sustaining 800 jobs at shipyards on the Clyde through contracted work and by guaranteeing the "crucial manufacturing skills" needed to build the Navy's future Type 26 Frigates.

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Mrs Baldwin said: "This contract will deliver two more modern offshore patrol vessels, HMS Tamar and HMS Spey, for the Royal Navy and safeguard vital shipbuilding skills and hundreds of jobs in Scotland.

"Protected by a rising fefence budget, the OPV programme is an important part of the Government's £178 billion plan to ensure our armed forces have the equipment they need."

HMS Tamar and HMS Spey are expected to be delivered in 2019.

Like the other vessels of their class, HMS Tamar and HMS Spey will carry out counter-terrorism, anti-piracy, anti-smuggling and maritime defence operations, and are expected to be equipped with a 30mm cannon and a flight deck capable of receiving a Merlin helicopter.

Displacing around 2,000 tonnes, they will have a maximum speed of 24 knots and will be able to sail 5,500 nautical miles before having to resupply.

The MOD said that as well as sustaining around 800 Scottish shipbuilding jobs on the Clyde, the OPV programme sustains additional jobs at more than 100 companies in the UK supply chain.

Tony Douglas, chief executive officer at the MoD's defence equipment and support organisation, said: "This agreement will deliver two more offshore patrol vessels which the Royal Navy will use to protect the nation's interest at home and around the world.

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"These modern ships will have a versatile flight deck, improved firefighting equipment and greater storage and accommodation than previous vessels, giving UK sailors a decisive advantage on a huge range of operations."

BAE Systems is currently exploring a number of export opportunities with international customers for OPV.

The Brazilian Navy operates three Amazonas Class corvettes which are based on the design of the river-class OPV and were built at BAE Systems' facilities in the UK.

At BAE's fabrication yard, Mrs Baldwin pressed the button which enabled a plasma-cutting machine to cut the first steel for the OPVs.

The vessels, when completed, are designed to meet the requirements of the Royal Navy globally.

The minister said it was a symbol of the MoD's commitment to safeguarding jobs and securing work on the River Clyde.

About 60 apprentices at the yard are expected to benefit from the contract for the two new ships.

BAE Systems bosses say securing the contract for the two new ships is testament to the capability, skills and dedication of its workforce.

Ian Stephenson, managing director, said: "I am looking forward to seeing both the OPV and Type 26 ships in construction across both our shipyards in Glasgow next year."

OPV programme director Katie Allan said the apprentices and graduates would be involved in creating warships of the future.

She said: "These ships are important to the Royal Navy and showcase the newest technology building on the proud heritage of British shipbuilding.

"Our apprentices and graduates here in Glasgow will be involved the future of warships on the Clyde. As the world changes, our ships will be able to change with it."

After beginning production of the ships, Mrs Baldwin said the Govan yards had a healthy future.

She added: "It was my first time cutting steel and I hope there will be many other occasions in the future.

"These are thriving yards, but wouldn't it be wonderful if we were able export vessels for many years on the Clyde?"