When talking about what makes the Marine Corps so valuable to the United States, per- haps the thing that separates it from every
other service is the ability to jump from the sea to the
shore and kick down the door of any hostile force in
the world. And there are few assets that can claim to do
as good a job at helping accomplish that as the Landing
Craft Air Cushion (LCAC) — a craft that soon will be
replaced by something even more capable.
There is nothing like it in the entire Navy fleet. It
is a vehicle that is cushioned by air so it can move
deftly over the water and land on a beach without
getting stuck, and yet it also can move dozens of tons
of vehicles and other cargo off of a ship and on to
The Navy and Marine Corps have leaned on the LCAC
heavily since it first entered service in the mid-1980s,
marking a dramatic innovation in modern amphibious
warfare and helping turn the Marines into an even more
fearsome force. The LCAC’s ability to launch from 50
nautical miles offshore protected ships from attack, and
the propulsion system made it less susceptible to mines.
More importantly, it gave the Marines access to more
than 80 percent of coastlines around the world.
But it has been 30 years since
the LCAC first arrived, and that age
is starting to show as the Marines
implement service life extension
programs to keep the platform
operating. Fortunately, its successor — the Ship-to-Shore Connector
(SSC) — is not far behind.
In fact, things have gone relatively
smoothly for the program, at least in
Pentagon terms. Detail design is complete and production is under way
at Textron Systems Marine in New
Orleans for the SSC, with the first
craft scheduled to reach the “ready
for test” milestone in December.
The Navy is in the midst of building the first two SSCs
— LCAC 100, which started fabrication in November
2014, and LCAC 101, which started fabrication in January
2015 — with delivery expected in 2017. Production of
LCACs 102 and 103 will start later this year.
A big improvement in the SSC over the legacy LCACs
is when it comes to maintenance, Matthew Leonard, a
Naval Sea Systems Command spokesman, said in an
e-mail response to Seapower questions.
“The SSC design incorporated material and systems
improvements to address the top 25 high-maintenance
drivers of LCAC, including the use of more corrosion-
resistant aluminum in the hull and composites in the
propeller shroud assembly,” he said. “Additionally, the
SSC Command Module was reconfigured to a pilot/
co-pilot arrangement with redundant controls, the SSC
drive train and engines provide greater efficiency and
power, and the Advanced Skirt increases fuel efficiency
by reducing drag.”
In the meantime, the legacy LCACs must be kept
operating at a high level until the SSC can take over
fully. Leonard said the LCACs are doing the job, and the
fleet “remains capable of meeting Marine Expeditionary
Brigade Assault Echelon lift requirements.”
Like No Other
Marine Corps soon will have a replacement for its aging LCACs
By DANIEL P. TAYLOR, Special Correspondent
In With the New
The Landing Craft Air Cushion (LCAC) has transported Marines
and their weapons systems, equipment and cargo from ship to
shore and across the beach since the mid-1980s.
n The Ship-to-Shore Connectors (SSCs) will replace the legacy
LCACs beginning in 2017.
n The first SSC — LCAC 100 — is slated to reach the “ready for
test” milestone this December.
n The old LCACs, meanwhile, are undergoing service life extension
work to mitigate a capability gap.