Landing Craft Air Cushion

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LCAC-55 maneuvers to enter the well deck.jpg
A US Navy LCAC maneuvers to enter the well deck of the amphibious assault ship USS Kearsarge
TypeLanding craft
Place of originUnited States
Service history
In service1986–present
Production history
ManufacturerTextron Marine and Land Systems
Avondale Gulfport Marine
Unit cost$27 million (1996)
~$41 million (2015)[1]
No. built97
Mass182 long tons (185 t) full load
Length87 feet 11 inches (26.80 meters)
Width47 feet (14 meters)

two 12.7 mm (.50 in) machine guns. Gun mounts will support: M2HB .50 in cal machine gun; Mk 19 Mod 3 40 mm grenade launcher; M60 machine gun. Tests conducted with GAU-13 30 mm gatling gun.[2]
Engine4 gas turbines
Payload capacity60 short tons (up to 75 short tons in an overload condition)(54/68 metric tons)
200 nmi at 40 kn (370 km at 75 km/h) with payload
300 nmi at 35 kn (550 km at 65 km/h) with payload
Maximum speed 40+ knots (46+ mph; 74 km/h) with full load, 70+ knots maximum speed

The Landing Craft Air Cushion (LCAC) is a class of air-cushion vehicle (hovercraft) used as landing craft by the United States Navy's Assault Craft Units and the Japan Maritime Self-Defense Force (JMSDF). They transport weapons systems, equipment, cargo and personnel of the assault elements of the Marine Air/Ground Task Force both from ship to shore and across the beach. It is to be replaced by the Ship-to-Shore Connector (SSC).

Design and development[edit]

Concept design for the present day LCAC began in the early 1970s with the full-scale Amphibious Assault Landing Craft (AALC) test vehicle. During the advanced development stage, two prototypes were built. JEFF A was designed and built by Aerojet General in California, with four rotating ducted propellers. JEFF B was designed and built by Bell Aerospace in New Orleans, Louisiana.[3]

JEFF B had two ducted rear propellers similar to the proposed SK-10 which was derived from the previous Bell SK-5 / SR.N5 hovercraft tested in Vietnam. These two craft confirmed the technical feasibility and operational capability that ultimately led to the production of the LCAC. JEFF B was selected as the design basis for today's LCAC.[3] The JEFF A was later modified for Arctic use and deployed in Prudhoe Bay to support offshore oil drilling.[4]

The first 33 were included in the FY82-86 defense budgets, 15 in FY89, 12 each in FY90, FY91 and FY92, while seven were included in FY93. The first LCAC was delivered to the Navy in 1984 and Initial Operational Capability (IOC) was achieved in 1986. Approval for full production was granted in 1987.[5]

After an initial 15-craft competitive production contract was awarded to each of two companies, Textron Marine & Land Systems (TMLS) of New Orleans, La, and Avondale Gulfport Marine, TMLS was selected to build the remaining craft. A total of ninety-one LCAC have now been built. The final craft, LCAC 91, was delivered to the U.S. Navy in 2001.[5]

On June 29, 1987, approval was granted for full LCAC production. Forty-eight air-cushion landing craft were authorized and appropriated through FY 89. Lockheed Shipbuilding Company was competitively selected as a second source. The FY 1990 budget request included $219.3 million for nine craft. The FY 1991 request included full funding for 12 LCACs and advance procurement in support of the FY 1992 program (which was intended to be nine craft). The remaining 24 were funded in FY92.[5]

IOC - Initial Operating Capability[edit]

The LCAC first deployed in 1987 aboard USS Germantown. LCACs are transported in and operate from all the U.S. Navy's amphibious-well deck ships including LHA, LHD, LSD and LPD. Ships capable of carrying the LCAC include the Wasp (3 LCACs), Tarawa (1), Anchorage (4), Austin (1), Whidbey Island (4–5), Harpers Ferry (2), and San Antonio (2) classes.

All of the planned 91 craft have been delivered to the Navy. Of these 91 LCACs, seventeen have been disassembled for Government-Furnished Equipment (GFE) or otherwise terminated for cost reasons, two are held for R&D, and 36 are in use on each coast at Little Creek, Virginia and Camp Pendleton, California. Eight minesweeping kits were acquired in 1994–1995. A service-life extension program (SLEP) to extend service life from 20 to 30 years for the remaining 72 active LCACs was begun in 2000 and is scheduled to be completed by 2018.[6]

The craft operates with a crew of five. In addition to beach landing, LCAC provides personnel transport, evacuation support, lane breaching, mine countermeasure operations, and Marine and Special Warfare equipment delivery.[3] The four main engines are all used for lift and all used for main propulsion. The craft can continue to operate, at reduced capability, with two engines inoperable. They are interchangeable for redundancy. A transport model can seat 180 fully equipped troops.[7]

The LCAC's cargo capacity is 1,809 sq ft (168.1 m2). The LCAC is capable of carrying a 60 short-ton payload (up to 75 tons in an overload condition), including one M-1 Abrams tank, at speeds over 40 knots. Fuel capacity is 5000 gallons. The LCAC uses an average of 1000 gallons per hour.[5]

Maneuvering considerations include requiring 500 yards or more to stop and 2000 yards or more turning radius. The bow ramp is 28.8 ft (8.8 m) wide while the stern ramp is 15 ft (4.6 m) wide. Noise and dust levels are high with this craft. If disabled the craft is difficult to tow. In recent years spray suppression has been added to the craft's skirt to reduce interference with driver's vision.[5]

An LCAC is delivering supplies to the citizens of Meulaboh, Indonesia after the 2004 Indian Ocean tsunami.

The LCAC is a dramatic innovation in modern amphibious warfare technology. It provides the capability to launch amphibious assaults from points over the horizon (OTH) from up to 50 nautical miles (93 km; 58 mi) offshore. This decreases the risk to ships and personnel and generates greater uncertainty in the enemy's mind as to the location and timing of an assault, thereby maximizing its prospects of success. The LCAC propulsion system makes it less susceptible to mines than other assault craft or vehicles. Due to its tremendous over-the-beach capability, the LCAC can access more than 80% of the world's coastlines.[5]

Previously, landing craft had a top speed of approximately eight knots (15 km/h; 9.2 mph) and could cross only 17% of the world's beach area. Assaults were made from a few miles off-shore. Its high speed complements a joint assault with helicopters, so personnel and equipment can be unloaded beyond the beach in secure landing areas. For 20 years, helicopters have provided the partial capability to launch over-the-horizon amphibious assaults. Now, with the LCAC, landing craft complement helicopters in terms of speed, tactical surprise and without exposing ships to enemy fire.[5]

US Navy sailors pilot an LCAC transporting U.S. Marines ashore.

The similarities between a Navy LCAC and an airplane are substantial. The craftmaster sits in a "cockpit" or command module with a headset radio on. He talks to air traffic control which for LCAC's is well-deck control located near a ship's sterngate. The ride feels like a plane in high turbulence. The craftmaster steers with a yoke, his feet are on rudder controls.[5]

The LCAC is similar to a helicopter in that it has six dimensions of motion. Operating the LCAC demands unique perceptual and psychomotor skills. In addition, with a machine as expensive and inherently dangerous as the LCAC, sound judgment and decision-making also play an important role.Concerns over escalating training cost, projections for an increased number of LCAC vehicles and crew, and a high attrition rate in training highlighted the importance of developing a more accurate means of selecting candidates. Attrition of operators and engineers has dropped from an initial high of 40% in 1988 to approximately 10–15% today.[5]


Three LCACs conduct an amphibious assault exercise during Bright Star '09.
USMC LAV-25s and HMMWVs are offloaded from a USN LCAC craft at Samesan RTMB, Thailand.

In Fiscal Year 2000 the Navy started an LCAC Service Life Extension Program (SLEP) to add 10 years of design life to each craft. The SLEP will be applied to 72 LCACs, extending their service life from 20 to 30 years, delaying the need to replace these versatile craft.[3][8]

Without a SLEP the first LCAC would face retirement in 2004, based on a 20-year lifespan. Naval Sea Systems Command (NAVSEA) has been working with Textron Marine and Land Systems since April 1996 on LCAC SLEP research and development. The actual SLEP modifications are planned to be conducted in two phases.

Phase I. Over a period of several years electronics system recapitalization will take place at each Assault Craft Unit (ACU), where the craft are physically located. This will involve replacing current electronics components, which are increasingly becoming obsolete and unsupportable, with an open electronics architecture using easily upgraded, Commercial Off-The-Shelf (COTS) components. The new electronics suite will be more reliable and less costly to operate and maintain.

Phase II. Buoyancy box replacement will be conducted at the Textron Marine and Land Systems facility in New Orleans, LA, where Textron will use design changes, coatings, and changes in materials to increase the LCACs resistance to corrosion. Phase II will also include the electronics upgrade of Phase I, until the entire active fleet is outfitted with the new configuration. The new buoyancy box will incorporate improvements to damage stability and trim control of the LCACs.

NAVSEA transitioned from the research and development effort to the SLEP in 1999. Concurrently NAVSEA also considered additional SLEP options, including an enhanced engine to provide improved operation in excessively hot environments and an advanced skirt that is more reliable and cost effective.

The Navy continued the LCAC Service Life Extension Program in Fiscal Year 2001. This program combines major structural improvements with Command, Control, Communications, Computer and Navigation upgrades and adds 10 years to the service life, extending it to 30 years. In FY 2001, it was funded at $19.9 million and extended the service life of 1 craft. The SLEP is planned for a total of 72 craft.

The near-term focus will be on the "C4N" [Command, Control, Communications, Computers, and Navigation] program, to replace the crafts' obsolete equipment. This will focus on replacement of LN-66 radars with modern, high-power P-80 radar systems. Additionally, the SLEP will include an open-architecture concept, relying on modern commercial-off-the-shelf (COTS) equipment, which will allow much easier incorporation of later technology changes, such as the precision navigation system and communications systems ¾ fully interoperable with in-service and near-term future Joint systems ¾ now planned. The C4N program is to complete by 2010.

Through 2016, the Navy will look to incorporate other important service-life enhancements: Engine upgrades (ETF-40B configuration) that will provide additional power and lift particularly in hot (43 °C (109 °F), and higher) environments, reduced fuel consumption, reduced maintenance needs, and reduced lift footprint; Replacement of the buoyancy box to solve corrosion problems, incorporate hull improvements, and "reset" the fatigue-limit "clock"; Incorporation of a new (deep) skirt that will reduce drag, increase performance envelope over water and land, and reduce maintenance requirements.[5]

As of September 2012, there are 80 LCACs in the U.S. Navy inventory. Of these 80 LCACs, 39 LCACs have undergone the SLEP conversion, 7 more SLEP conversions are in progress and 4 are awaiting induction. The FY 2013 budget authorized 4 SLEP conversions per year through FY 2018. The last of the 72 SLEP conversions will be delivered to the Navy in FY 2020. A number of LCACs are under development and testing at the Naval Support Activity Panama City in Panama City, Florida. When the first SLEP LCAC reached its 30 years of design service in 2015, it was to gradually be retired. In 2019, at which point the inventory of LCACs had fallen to 50, the USN began receiving the new Ship-to-Shore Connector (SSC), the LCAC-100.[8]

The USN inventory of LCACs will continue to fall, as the SLEP LCACs are retired, until 2023, when the inventory will reach a low of 40 SLEP LCACs and SSC LCAC-100s. The inventory will remain at 40 until 2026 when the production of SSC LCAC-100s will begin to outnumber the retirement of SLEP LCACs. Current projections foresee the inventory rising to 60 SSC LCAC-100s in 2031 and 72 SSC LCAC-100s on 2034.[8]

Ship-to-Shore Connector[edit]

The SSC LCAC-100 will have an increased payload of 73 short tons. It will have Pilot/Co-Pilot Dual Controls with a smaller crew (5) and a new Command, Control, Communications, Computers & Navigation (C4N) suite. It will also have engines offering 20% more power with new Full Authority Digital Engine Control (FADEC), a simpler and more efficient drive train with one gearbox per side, and a new Heating, Ventilation and Air Conditioning (HVAC) system. It will be constructed out of aluminum alloy 5083 which offers a lighter, stronger and performance in extreme environments, plus better corrosion resistance. Other improvements include an immersion grade wet deck coating system and its gear shaft and fan blades will be constructed with extensive composites. It will be able to operate with a 74 short ton load at a sustained speed of 35 knots (65 km/h; 40 mph) in NATO Sea State 3–4 (waves heights of 4.1 to 8.2 feet, averaging 6.2 feet).[9][10][11][12]

Japanese operations[edit]

A JMSDF LCAC at Naval Review

Six LCAC are in use by the Japan Maritime Self-Defense Force. Approval for the sale was given by the United States Government on 8 April 1994. The craft were built by Textron Marine & Land Systems in New Orleans, Louisiana. Purchase of the first craft was included in the FY93 budget, second in FY95, third and fourth in FY99 and fifth and sixth in FY00.


 United States

Specifications (LCAC 1)[edit]

A USN LCAC approaches USS Wasp.
US Marines loading onto an LCAC within the well deck of USS Wasp, 2004
  • Builder: Textron Marine and Land Systems/Avondale Gulfport Marine
  • Date Deployed: 1982
  • Propulsion:
    • Legacy: 4 Lycoming/AlliedSignal TF-40B gas turbines (2 for propulsion / 2 for lift); 16,000 hp sustained; 2-shrouded reversible pitch airscrews; 4-double-entry fans, centrifugal or mixed flow (lift)
    • Service Life Extension Program (SLEP): 4 Vericor Power Systems ETF-40B gas turbines with Full Authority Digital Engine Control
  • Length: 87 feet 11 inches (26.80 meters)
  • Beam: 47 feet (14 meters)
  • Displacement: 87.2 long tons (88.6 metric tons) light; 170–182 long tons (173–185 metric tons) full load
  • Speed: 40+ knots (46+ mph; 74+ km/h) with full load, 70+ knots maximum speed
  • Range: 200 nmi at 40 knots (370 km at 75 km/h) with payload
    300 nmi at 35 knots (550 km at 65 km/h) with payload
  • Crew: Five
  • Load: 60 long tons/75 long tons overload (54/68 metric tons)
  • Military lift: 180 troops or one MBT
  • Armament: Two 12.7 mm machine guns. Gun mounts can support the M2HB .50 cal machine gun, Mk 19 Mod 3 40 mm grenade launcher, or the M60 machine gun. Tests conducted with GAU-13 30 mm gatling gun.[2]
  • Radar: Navigation: Marconi LN-66; I-band
Source: LCAC U.S. Navy Fact File[3]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Schmitz, LCDR K.L. "LCAC vs LCU: Are LCAC Worth the Expenditure?". United States Marine Corps, Command and Staff College. Retrieved 19 July 2015.
  2. ^ a b Polmar, Norman (2004). The Naval Institute Guide to the Ships and Aircraft of the U.S. Fleet. ISBN 9781591146858.
  3. ^ a b c d e LCAC U.S. Navy Fact File Archived 2007-12-21 at the Wayback Machine
  4. ^ "The JEFF(A) Arctic Logistics Demonstration Program". 6 May 1985. doi:10.4043/4944-MS. Archived from the original on 2016-02-05. Retrieved 2016-01-30. {{cite journal}}: Cite journal requires |journal= (help)
  5. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k Landing Craft, Air Cushion (LCAC), Archived 2013-08-04 at the Wayback Machine
  6. ^ "U.S. Navy Program Guide 2015" (PDF). Washington, DC: Department of the Navy. 2015. pp. 82–83. Archived from the original (PDF) on 16 April 2016. Retrieved 14 April 2016.
  7. ^ "Our Company".
  8. ^ a b c Surface Connector Outlook, N954 Expeditionary Preposition/Connector Branch, September 2012, CAPT Sean Geaney USN Archived 2013-07-19 at the Wayback Machine
  9. ^ Expeditionary Preposition/Connector Branch, N954 Surface Connector Outlook, CAPT Sean Geaney USN, September 2012 Archived 2013-07-19 at the Wayback Machine
  10. ^ Ship to Shore Connector Industry Day Archived 2009-05-19 at the Wayback Machine
  11. ^ SHIP-TO-SHORE CONNECTOR(SSC) ANALYSIS OF ALTERNATIVES OVERVIEW Archived 2009-08-16 at the Wayback Machine
  12. ^ SHF SATCOM Terminal Ship-Motion Study, Technical Report 1578, March 1993, M. McDonald, page 11. Archived 2013-02-16 at the Wayback Machine

External links[edit]