The cornerstone of the U.S. amphibious program is the Marine & Land Systems Landing Craft, Air Cushion (LCAC). The LCAC vehicles are nearing the end of their service lives. The Ship to Shore Connector is set to replace the LCAC. However, delivery of the first SCC isn’t scheduled until 2017. The oldest LCACs are set for retirement this year 2015. Therefore, the Navy has been forced to exercise their contract option for delivery of two LCACs.
The Navy has 72 LCACs in inventory that will be replaced with 72 Ship-to-Shore Connectors (SCCs). Fifty LCACs have already completed their Service Life Extension Programs and have rejoined the fleet. Seven more are in SLEP now and a request for more SLEPs in Fiscal Year 2015 and 2016 are expected to be out shortly. It is estimated that $5 to $6 million per craft will be spent to increase the life span of current LCACs. The Navy has not determined how many SLEP-ed LCACs will go through the Post-SLEP Extension process.
The SCC program will be a revolution in reliability over the outgoing LCAC. Textron Systems Marine and Land Systems received a $213 million contract in July of 2012 to design and build a SSC test and training craft (LCAC100). The first SSC already started production in November 2014. SSC 101 (the second production craft) started production in January 2105. After extensive testing and evaluation, the craft will be delivered in the summer of 2017. The third and fourth crafts, 102 and 103, are expected to be delivered in the fourth quarter of 2019. The contract includes an option worth a total potential value of $570 million for up to eight production craft to be delivered by 2020. The SSC program has a total requirement of 73 crafts. This includes one test and training craft and 72 operational crafts.
The new LCAC vehicles will be powered by Rolls-Royce MT-7 engines. The engine is a version of their AE 1107 engine that is used on the MV-22 Osprey but customized for marine use. Instead of the four gear boxes in the old model, the new model will have just two dual-input/dual-output gear boxes. Using the engine from the MV-22 and only two gear boxes will increase reliability and decrease maintenance costs. The result is a craft that can carry a 74 short ton payload-meaning it can carry a M1A1 Tank and can travel at speeds just over 40 knots. The LCAC is designed to operate in extreme condition from the Arctic cold to the Saharan heat.
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