Britain's defense ministry has given the long-awaited go-ahead for a nearly $8 billion deal to build two aircraft carriers that will be the Royal Navy's largest warships.

Authorities say the contract for the 65,000-ton carriers, the HMS Queen Elizabeth and the HMS Prince of Wales, will safeguard about 10,000 jobs in Britain's shipbuilding sector.

Blueprints show the 280-meter-long ships carrying up to 40 aircraft. They are expected to be launched by 2016.

Defense Minister Des Brown said Tuesday the ships will provide British forces with "modern, world-class capabilities."

Britain's largest defense firm, BAE Systems, will join the VT Group as part of a consortium that will build the new carriers in shipyards in Scotland and England. Authorities say contracts are likely to be signed next month.

Some information for this report was provided by AFP and Reuters.