The Landing Craft, Air Cushioned (LCAC) is a class of air-cushion vehicle/hovercraft used as landing craft by the United States Navy 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.
Concept Design of 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 where 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. JEFF B had two ducted rear propellers similar to the proposed SK-10 which was derived from the previous SK-5 / SRN.5 hovercraft tested in Vietnam. These two craft confirmed the technical feasibility and operational capability that ultimately led to the production of LCAC. JEFF B was selected as the design basis for today’s LCAC.
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. 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. This craft served as the basis for the Navy’s LCAC Service Life Extension Program (SLEP).
LCAC first deployed in 1987 aboard . LCAC are transported in and operate from all the U.S. Navy's amphibious-well deck ships including LHA, LHD, LSD and LPD. All of the planned 91 craft have been delivered to the Navy. A Service Life Extension Program (SLEP) is currently in progress to add service life to the craft design life of 10 years, delaying the need to replace these versatile craft. A number of LCACs are currently under development and testing at the Naval Support Activity Panama City in Panama City, Florida.
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. The four main engines are all used for lift and all used for main propulsion. They are interchangeable for redundancy.