Being procured to replace the US Navy’s existing fleet of Landing Craft, Air Cushion (LCAC), the SSC – now designated as the LCAC 100 class – is an evolutionary development built with similar configurations, dimensions, and clearances to the legacy LCAC so as to ensure compatibility with existing well deck-equipped amphibious ships. While superficially similar to the earlier design, the new generation LCAC 100 incorporates a number of system and engineering changes designed to deliver increased performance but at the same time bringing improved reliability and maintainability to reduce lifecycle cost.
SSC construction is being undertaken at Textron Systems’ facility outside New Orleans, Louisiana. The company has to date been contracted for 24 out of the 73 LCAC 100 craft currently planned under the navy’s Program of Record (to comprise the test and training vehicle LCAC 100 plus 72 fleet assets).
Speaking at the Surface Navy Association annual symposium on 11 January, Captain Jason Gabrelle, Naval Sea Systems Command’s program manager for Amphibious Assault and Connectors (PMS 317), told attendees that six LCAC 100 craft had been accepted by the navy to date, the most recent being LCAC 104 in June 2022 and LCAC 106 in November last year. “Four of those craft are up at Assault Craft Unit 4 in Norfolk, Virginia. Post delivery test and trials is ongoing.”
He continued: “We’ve recently conducted a bunch of testing including ship interface testing, hull chamber testing, and overland testing.”
The next craft to arrive will be LCAC 105, which is planned to run acceptance trials at the end of this month. “Based on the Board of Inspection and Survey, we expect to take delivery in early February,” Captain Grabelle said.
SSC development encountered a number of technical challenges, including gearbox reliability problems and blade cracking, which have impacted the program schedule and caused cost escalation. However, according to Captain Grabelle, these issues have now been resolved. “We have a steady production baseline – we’re through the micro-cracking in the blades, and we are through the gearbox issues.”
He added: “More and more craft are being delivered to the fleet. We’re up to six, and the production line is hot and moving along. The plan is to take delivery of four craft per year from here in.”
IOC will be achieved on completion of initial operational test and evaluation, and delivery of six fleet assets to ACU4. “We have to complete post-delivery test and trials, and we’re the majority of the way through that,” said Captain Grabelle. “We’ll hit IOC this calendar year .”