Navy Buys New Landing Craft Air Cushion for Amphibs

Navy is about to begin production of its first nine new LCACs as part of a broad effort to recapitalize existing shore connectors.

Navy is about to begin production of its first nine new Landing Craft Air Cushions, or LCACs, as part of a broad effort to recapitalize existing shore connectors and replace the service’s aging fleet, service officials said Jan. 16 at the Surface Navy Association Annual Symposium, Crystal City, Va.

“A contract was awarded for the first nine LCAC replacements and we’re in design now and heading to a production readiness review this year,” said Capt. Chris Mercer, amphibious warfare program manager.

The LCAC contract mentioned by Capt. Mercer was awarded to Textron Marine & Land System, who is currently working on a next-generation LCAC replacement called Ship to Shore Connector, or SSC.  The first SSC is slated to arrive in 2017.

The Navy wants to sustain, maintain and modernize its fleet of 81 LCACs, the ship-to-shore boat vehicles able to transport troops, weapons, vehicles, equipment and even tanks to shore. Existing LCACs are engineered to transport up to 150,000 pounds and can carry as many as 180 people. Using four gas-turbine engines and two four-bladed propellers, LCACs can travel through water, ice, snow, sand and tundra.

Textron leaders say the next-generation LCAC will build upon the successful technology of the original, but add some new features such as joystick controls and innovative aluminum materials.  The new LCAC or SSC is being engineered with two Rolls Royce engines and will be able to reach speeds of 50 knots, said Tom Walmsley, general manager, Textron.

The SSC is engineered with a simpler, more efficient drive train using one gearbox per side, Navy charts show. Fewer parts allow for less maintenance and higher reliability. In addition, the use of an aluminum alloy and additional composite materials is expected to greatly reduce corrosion for the new vehicle.

Also, the SSC’s gear-driven bow thrusters are designed for increased reliability, Navy charts explain.

Along with the effort to acquire new LCACs, which is expected to move toward a larger production contract, the Navy is also progressing along with an effort to recapitalize the existing fleet of LCACs, Mercer said.

Mercer said the Navy is about three quarters of the way through with what it calls a service life extension for 72 of its LCACs.

“This includes adding an amphibious assault direction system, a radio-based networking system that links up our craft and our ships to that we know where everyone is during an assault. A common operational picture is shared in the ship,” Mercer added.