The Coast Guard last Thursday awarded Lockheed Martin’s [LMT] Sikorsky business unit a potential $850 million contract for new H-60 helicopter hulls as part of the sustainment program for the service’s MH-60T fleet, which entered service in 1990.

Under the initial order worth nearly $207 million, Lockheed Martin will provide 25 new hulls, including non-recurring engineering costs.

Delivery of the first new hull is expected in early 2023 and subsequent deliveries of about one a month will start in late 2023. The contract runs through April 2025.

The hulls consist of the nose, mid-cabin and transition. The MH-60 is a variant of the ubiquitous Black Hawk helicopter.

The first helicopters in the fleet will reach their 20,000-hour service life limit in 2023. The Coast Guard estimates that 90 percent of its fleet will reach the 20,000-hour service limit by fiscal year 2028. The new hulls will provide another 20,000 flight hours of service.

The hull replacements along with other service life extension efforts will allow the Coast Guard to synch its operations for a future fleet recapitalization to take advantage of the Army’s Future Vertical Lift program. The MH-60T life extension will be one on a one-for-one helicopter basis to maintain the fleet size of 45 aircraft.

Additional key elements of the MH-60T sustainment effort include replacement of main rotor blades and electrical wire harnesses. Assembly of the hulls, installation of components and the wire harness replacement will be done at the Coast Guard Aviation Logistics Center in Elizabeth City, N.C.