BERLIN German Defence Minister Ursula von der Leyen has decided to buy six MKS-180 multi-role warships instead of putting off a decision on two of those ships until 2030, her spokesman said on Monday.
The ministry decided last October to delay a tender for four warships, which was valued at 4 billion euros ($4.24 billion), to ensure that quality standards were met. A decision on two extra warships had initially been planned in 2030.
"The need is there. Now the minister has decided to buy all six of the required MKS-180 ships," the spokesman said, without providing a new cost estimate for the programme.
The new ships, to be delivered from 2023, will be used for attacking targets on land and underwater, as well as providing aerial protection to other vessels.
The three teams bidding to build the new warships are the Bremen-based shipyard Luerssen and Thyssen Krupp Marine Systems, Blohm + Voss and the Dutch group Damen shipyards, and German Naval Yards paired with Britain's BAE Systems, according to security sources.
Von der Leyen's decision comes against the backdrop of increased pressure from U.S. President Donald Trump for Germany and other NATO countries to spend more on their own defences.
Germany is boosting military spending by nearly 2 billion euros in 2017 to 37 billion euros, or 1.22 percent of gross domestic product (GDP), but said it would take time to reach the NATO target of spending 2 percent of GDP on defence.
The German government, together with France, has been pushing for greater European defence and security cooperation, especially after Britain's vote to leave the European Union.
Berlin has also deepened its bilateral military ties with the Netherlands and Norway with recent agreements.
On Monday, Norway announced that Germany would buy naval strike missiles from its Kongsberg Gruppen for more than 10 billion crowns ($1.20 billion).
The German defence ministry said the two countries would work together on developing the Norwegian firm's missile.
The MKS-180 ships are to be the first to be outfitted with the new missiles, and they will become standard equipment on German and Norwegian frigates in the longer term.
The German minister's decision to buy all six ships will not affect the current procurement process, with the two additional ships to be purchased under a separate lot, the spokesman said.
($1 = 0.9434 euros)
(Reporting by Sabine Siebold and Andrea Shalal; Editing by Tom Heneghan)