A Defence Minister has told Forces News he is "confident" that the first Type 31e warship will be in the water by 2023, but stated no decision has been made on where the vessels will be based.
Stuart Andrew was speaking as three shipbuilding teams, led by BAE Systems, Babcock and Atlas Elektronik UK, have been shortlisted for the competition to build the five frigates for £1.25 billion.
He was speaking in Portsmouth as HMS Queen Elizabeth returned to the UK after four months in the United States.
'No decision yet made on Type 31e home base'
Each group will be awarded a contract worth up to £5 million to fund the next stage of their plans, with the preferred bidder for the design and manufacture of the ships due to be announced by the end of next year.
The MOD wants the first ship delivered by 2023 and Mr Andrew says that is still realistic and that the announcement is "a very important step":
"We're trying a different type of procurement - let's not forgot that this is the first time in a generation we've run a competition for new frigates that we're going to need for the Royal Navy.
"What we've got today are three bidders who have shown that they are interested in taking part in the competition and now they will go into the detailed design phase so that we can then pick the ultimate winner who will eventually construct and build those ships that we need.
"We have set 2023 as the year that we want the first ship in the water.
"We've got three bids that have come forward so I feel very confident that they can do it."
On basing, Mr Andrew said: "That is a decision we have yet to make.
"I recognise that Portsmouth is an important base for the Royal Navy and I am sure it will be a contender."
The awarding of the contracts is the latest step in the National Shipbuilding Strategy, which was launched in September 2017.
Production of the Type 31e vessel is expected to begin within three years of the programmes' launch.
The ships will make up the next generation of the Royal Navy, along with eight Type 26 warships which will start being delivered from the mid-2020s.
The names of all eight Type 26 frigates have now been announced, and the Defence Secretary Gavin Williamson has also outlined that they will be homed in Devonport.
The decision on where the Type 31e frigates will be based is still to be made.