ARLINGTIN, Va. — Textron Marine and Land Systems, builder of the next generation of landing craft air cushions (LCACs), expects to begin full-rate production of the new LCAC in 2017, said Jan Baudoin, the company’s director for the Ship-to-Shore Connector (SSC)program.The LCAC 100 class will supplement and eventually replace the older LCAC class, also built by Textron, on the Navy’s well-deck amphibious warfare ships.Speaking Jan. 13 to reporters at the Surface Navy Association National Symposium, Baudoin said that the first new SSC, LCAC 100, will be a test and training craft for the program. LCAC 101 will be the first one intended for fleet use.Tom Rivers, of the Navy’s landing craft program office, said that LCAC 100 is 27 percent complete and will be completed in 2017. LCAC 101 is 16 percent complete and will be completed three months after 100. LCACs 102 and 103 are scheduled to begin their construction phase later this year.The Navy is expected to exercise options for four or five more this year as well, Baudoin said.
Source: SEAPOWER Magazine Online
Well, there’s some good news on the shipbuilding front. The SSC is primarily an improvement over the older LCACs because it can carry the weight of an M1A1 tank without having to strain its engines and lift fan.
The Navy and industry will soon begin work on the Landing Craft Unit replacement program two years ahead of the original schedule, forcing some concurrent design and model testing but delivering a much-needed replacement sooner.
The new LCU 1700 program, to replace the legacy LCU 1610 craft, was supposed to start in Fiscal Year 2018, but Congress included funding in the current FY 2016 budget to accelerate the delivery of the new landing craft.
The LCU fleet is well over 40 years old, and was intended to have a 25 year service life when built. The Navy plan is to have the new LCU with the same general size as the old ones (since they have to fit in the same amphibious shipping, after all) with a modest improvement in load capacity. The goal is to be able to carry about 160 tons, that is, two M1A1 tanks.
The metric of measuring movements by numbers of tanks is useful, but given that the average Marine Expeditionary Unit deployed only has a four tank platoon attached kind of obscures the real majority of what needs to be moved via LCU. Marines ashore need to be supported by a lot of trucks carrying fuel, ammunition and food and water. Moving all those supplies by air or LCAC is difficult and expensive. Sometimes, cheap and slow is just fine.