Engineered to carry a 65 to 75 ton payload, the Landing Craft, Air Cushion (LCAC) is a high-speed, over-the-beach fully amphibious landing craft. The combination of stealth and payload capability increases the Marine Ground Element ability to reach the shore. The payload capability of the LCAC is impressive—reaching speeds of 40+ knots while carrying M-1 Abram tanks. While merely 15% of the world’s coastline is reachable by traditional landing craft, the air cushion technology of the LCAC system allows it to reach more than 70% of all global coastlines.
The LCAC is used to transport the weapons systems, equipment, cargo, and personnel of the assault elements of the Marine Air-Ground Task Force from ship to shore and across the beach. As of today, 91 LCAC have been built. The first LCAC deployed in 1987 aboard the USS Germantown (LSD-42). In July 1987, the first LCAC landing on foreign soil occurred when LCAC-04 transited Buckner Bay, Okinawa, off of Japan. Operation Desert Storm saw the largest deployment of LCAC, with four detachments comprising of eleven craft reported for duty in the Persian Gulf in January 1991. The final craft, LCAC-91, was delivered to the U.S. Navy in 2001.
Though the LCAC is a seafaring vessel, navigating a Landing Craft, Air Cushion is very similar to flying an aircraft. The craftmaster sits in a cockpit command module and communicates with a well-deck control located near the vessel’s sterngate via headset radio. The ride of a LCAC feels like an aircraft in high turbulence. The LCAC is similar to a rotorcraft in that it has six dimensions of motion—requiring excellent perceptual and psychomotor skills from the craftsmaster.
The specifications of the Landing Craft, Air Cushion (LCAC) are as follows: