A decision on replacements for the ageing HMS Fearless and HMS Intrepid had been repeatedly delayed since the mid-1980s by successive defence secretaries.
However, the MoD said it might not replace both ships. A decision depends on the prices quoted in the bids.
'The invitation calls for tenders for two new assault ships, as well as tenders for one ship with an option price for a second,' it said. 'The number of ships to be ordered will be decided when tenders have been considered.'
Soffia-CMN, the French group hoping to buy the Swan Hunter shipyard out of receivership, said it would bid for the work if it was in a position to. A rescue deal for the yard is awaiting clearance from the MoD, but the receiver will not wait indefinitely. The work would secure jobs for Swan Hunter's remaining 630 workers.
Devonport, Rosyth and VSEL shipyards are among other British yards expected to tender. A contract to build a new helicopter carrier for amphibious operations was awarded to VSEL in May 1993, and a contract to refit and modernise the landing ship Sir Bedivere was awarded to Rosyth last month.
There are also plans to refurbish the other two older landing ships, Sir Geraint and Sir Percivale.Reuse content