An additional five MH-60T Jayhawk fuselage hulls have been ordered from Sikorsky by the US Coast Guard (USCG) to support the ongoing service life extension of its existing fleet of 45 aircraft.
The contract was awarded on July 6 and is valued at just over US$36m. With this latest deal, a total of 30 new MH-60T hulls have been ordered under the existing indefinite-delivery, indefinite-quantity (IDIQ) contract, which extends through to April 2025 and has a potential ceiling value of US$850m. The initial order for 25 hulls – worth nearly US$207m – was placed on January 21, 2021.
Delivery of the first new hull is anticipated in early 2023, with subsequent hulls scheduled for delivery at a pace of approximately one per month, starting later that year. The first three hulls will be used for validating Sikorsky’s production processes and USCG hull assembly procedures before moving to full-rate production for the next 22 hulls.
The USCG’s MH-60 helicopters, which have been in operational service since 1990, are reaching the end of their viable service life – the first helicopters in the fleet are set to reach their original service life limit from 2023. This order provides new MH-60T hulls with 20,000 hours of service life to enable them to continue to support the Coast Guard’s 11 statutory missions, including drug interdiction, environmental protection and search and rescue.
Hull replacement is just one component of the MH-60T sustainment effort. In addition, some critical dynamic components, such as main rotor blades and electrical wire harnesses, will also be replaced. Aircraft production – the assembly and installation of dynamic components in the hulls – will be completed at the Coast Guard Aviation Logistics Center (ALC) in Elizabeth City, North Carolina.
Replacement of the structural hulls is being achieved by two means, either by ordering new production fuselage shells to MH-60T specification from the manufacturer, or by conversion of hulls from now-retired US Navy SH-60F/HH-60H helicopters to the MH-60T standard. Conversion of the former-Navy helicopters is being conducted by the Coast Guard ALC in Elizabeth City.
The new hulls, combined with existing programmed service life extension activities, will enable the USCG to align operations with the timeline for future fleet recapitalisation in conjunction with the Department of Defense’s joint Future Vertical Lift programme.