HALIFAX -- The federal government confirmed Friday that Irving Shipbuilding Inc. of Halifax will be the prime contractor on the planned replacement for the navy's frigates.

Two days ago, defence and government sources told The Canadian Press that the company would be the lead firm in the program.

Irving Shipbuilding, under the name Saint John Shipbuilding, was the lead contractor on the construction of the existing frigates in the late 1980s and throughout the 1990s.

Federal officials also formally announced that Irving Shipbuilding has been awarded a $2.3-billion build contract for six Arctic Patrol vessels.

Officials from Public Works and National Defence confirmed the contract last week during a briefing in Ottawa with Irving Shipbuilding president Kevin McCoy.

The announcement Friday marks the start of the construction phrase under the federal shipbuilding procurement strategy.