Virginia-based sailors from Assault Craft Unit Four (ACU 4) arrived at the Naval Surface Warfare Center Panama City Division (NSWC PCD) to prepare for the arrival of first Ship to Shore Connector craft to Panama.
The US Navy’s next-generation landing craft air cushion is set to arrive in December 2017.
In addition to preparations for the arrival of SSC, the ACU 4 detachment will also be conducting various types of testing.
“The SSC is the evolutionary replacement for the existing fleet of LCACs, which is nearing the end of their service life,” said ACU 4 Detachment Panama City Officer in Charge Master Chief Stephen Lowe. “The mission of these craft is to land surface assault elements in support of operational maneuver from the sea (OMFTS), at over-the-horizon distances, while operating from amphibious ships and mobile landing platforms. LCACs and SSCs are primarily used to haul vehicles, heavy equipment, and supplies through varied environmental conditions from amphibious ships to over the beach.”
According to NSWC PCD’s Air Cushion Vehicle Branch Head Ivan Lugo, the ACU 4 Detachment chose to come to PCD for the unique opportunity to become subject matter experts for the next generation LCAC-the LCAC100-class craft.
“The DET will be the pioneers for the entire US Navy in the new operational parameters and maintenance philosophy of the brand new SSC,” said Lugo. “Once trained by the SSC manufacturer, Textron Marine and Land Systems, the DET will become the lead trainers when they return to ACU 4, based in Little Creek, Virginia.”
The DET will also serve as the operational and maintenance crew for the SSC acceptance and operational trials through Post-Delivery Test and Trials (PDT&T), events that will be conducted in the Gulf of Mexico, specifically test ranges located off the coast of Panama City Beach and Eglin Air Force Base.
SSC pilot Senior Chief Pearsall said the SSC will be a significant improvement over the LCAC.
“It will considerably enhance the US Navy and Marine Corps team’s capability to execute its broad mission spectrum, which includes humanitarian assistance and disaster response to multidimensional amphibious assault,” said Pearsall.
According to Pearsall, the SSC is a 100 percent complete redesign with a considerable amount of automation built into this next-generation hovercraft.
For example, the legacy LCAC was designed to be operated from an analogue input, which required manually observing and physical attention to several types of controls, which include rudder control, bow-thruster control and the prop control. Many systems from stem to stern have not only been automated but integrated.