The Royal Navy's most modern warships will need to have holes cut in their sides to fit them with new engines because they keep breaking down.
The Ministry of Defence (MoD) has confirmed that the six Type 45 destroyers are to undergo major refits amid concerns over their reliability.
The work will be staggered over a period of years so some ships remain available for operational commitments at all times.
The move follows reports of persistent problems with the engines and power systems on the ships which cost £1 billion each.
In 2014, HMS Dauntless had to abandon a training exercise and in 2009 HMS Daring lost power in the Atlantic on her first voyage to the US.
Each of the ships, which are described as "part of the backbone of the Royal Navy", are fitted with two engines - a gas turbine and a diesel generator.
A Royal Navy source said the most likely action will be to add as many as two generators to "bolster the power that's already there".
He accepted that carrying out such maintenance just a few years into the ships' service was not "normal".
He said: "It is an issue, we're managing it at the moment but we need to do something about it."
The MoD has not disclosed the cost of the work but it is thought that it could run to tens of millions of pounds.
Cutting into the side of the ship is a normal way to access the engine rooms in the bottom of the ship, the source added.
"It's perfectly normal practice for maritime maintenance," he said.
An MoD spokesman said: "The Type 45 destroyers are hugely capable ships and have consistently made a difference to our safety and security.
"In our defence review last year we committed to improving the Type 45's power and propulsion system through a series of machinery upgrades during planned maintenance, which will ensure increased availability and resilience over the life of the ships."
The destroyers are used in "hunting pirates, drug runners or submarines, defending the fleet from air attack, and providing humanitarian aid after natural disasters", the MoD said.
In November, Defence Secretary Michael Fallon announced Portsmouth-based HMS Defender would provide air defence cover for the carrier Charles de Gaulle in the fight against Islamic State.