The US Navy on Friday ordered the first of its next-generation landing craft, with options for eight more, as it moves to replace its aging hovercraft fleet, the Pentagon announced.

The contract with defense development firm Textron totaled $213 million and may increase to $570 million if the eight options are exercised, the Pentagon said in a statement.

The first Ship-to-Shore Connector (SSC) is scheduled for delivery in 2017, and should be operational three years later.

SSC hovercraft are expected to gradually replace the 91 Landing Craft Air Cushion-class (LCAC) hovercrafts, which the navy has used since 1982.

The cost of buying and operating the SSCs will be comparatively lower than that incurred by the older LCACs, said Secretary of the Navy Ray Mabus.

The SSC should be able to transport a load of 74 tons — sufficient for moving several tanks — at a speed of 35 knots (65 kph) over a distance of more than 25 nautical miles.