Saudi Arabian officials say they are preparing to move forward with an upgrade to the country’s navy that could include a multibillion-dollar contract for Bath Iron Works, the Reuters news service reported Wednesday.

BIW’s DDG-51 destroyer is one of at least two ship designs being considered for the long-discussed Saudi Naval Expansion Program II, or SNEP, which has an estimated value of roughly $20 billion, Reuters said.

A Lockheed Martin International executive spoke to Reuters at the Dubai Airshow, which is going on this week in the United Arab Emirates, after having a discussion with Saudi officials.

Patrick Dewar, executive vice president of Lockheed Martin, told the news service that Saudi officials were planning to release new information over the next several months about how the country plans to proceed with SNEP.

Dewar told Reuters that the Saudis are considering whether to buy up to a dozen of Lockheed’s steel monohull Littoral Combat Ship or the larger DDG-51 destroyer built by BIW, a subsidiary of General Dynamics Corp.

If the Saudis chose the larger DDG-51, it likely would have fewer of the ships built, Reuters reported.

Still, that would be a huge contract for BIW that likely would add jobs at the facility for years to come.

The proposed Saudi naval expansion has been talked about for years, but no actual contracts have materialized.

“We are aware of the ongoing discussions between the U.S. and Saudi Arabia concerning modernization of the Saudi fleet,” said BIW spokesman Jim DeMartini. “We are in the business of building naval surface combatants and should the two governments reach an agreement on a program, we would be highly interested in pursuing that opportunity.”

DeMartini said BIW officials would continue to closely monitor developments with the proposed Saudi program.

J. Craig Anderson can be contacted at 207-791-6390 or:canderson@pressherald.comTwitter: @jcraiganderson