^ Air Cushion Vehicle (ACV) of the SSC Program (Source: http://www.navyrecognition.com/index.php?option=com_content&task=view&id=1978)
Multi-Industry Company Textron Inc. won a $21.9 million modification to a previously awarded contract from the United States Navy on August 28, 2014 to build Landing Craft, Air Cushion (LCAC) 101 as part of the Ship-to-Shore Connector (SSC) Program.
Under the SSC program, Air Cushion Vehicles (ACV) designed with a 30 year service life will gradually replace the U.S. Navy’s present LCAC fleet. ACVs will modernize the U.S. Navy and Marine Corps by enabling them to land on over 80% of the world’s shorelines for the next 30 years. SSC improves craft availability while reducing total ownership costs.
As of 2013, the SSC program budget was at $4 billion. The current LCAC fleet will be phased out shortly as their service lives end. Deliveries under SSC will begin in 2017 with initial operational capability from 2020. SSC requires 73 crafts, one for test and training and 72 for operations.
This is the first time in over 15 years that the U.S. Navy has provided an in-house design for a major naval acquisition program. The design team of the navy adopted an evolutionary design process. Each module was designed separately and this served as the basis for the preliminary design.
Operating Principle of Hovercrafts
Both LCACs and ACVs are hovercrafts. LCACs are presently used as landing crafts for ship to shore transport by the U.S. Navy’s Assault Craft Units and by the Japan Maritime Self-Defense Force (JMSDF).
Parts of a Hovercraft
Hovercrafts are hybrid vessels that travel over land, water, ice, and mud. Also known as Ground Effect Machines, they use downward directed blowers to produce large volumes of air above atmospheric pressure underneath the hovercraft. The pressure creates the lift enabling the craft to float above the surface.
Although the concept was first mooted in the 1870s by John Thornycroft, the first working model was made only in 1955 when Christopher Cockerel managed to keep the air cushion escaping from underneath the craft. Hovercrafts have a peculiar rounded-rectangular shape because air has to be blown around the outside of a disk-shaped platform for stability.
LCACs and SSC serve primarily to transport heavy equipment, vehicles, and supplies from amphibious ships to the beach. With an additional enclosed transport module, they can carry 108 casualty professionals or 145 Marines equipped for combat.
Till date, LCACs have repeatedly proved their utility in humanitarian relief operations over the world by delivering medical provisions, life-saving devices, food, and water. LCACs have also supported non-hostile amphibious operations. SSCs are expected to deliver similarly.
Putting into practice the finer details amassed from over twenty years of dealing with LCAC operations and maintenance, air cushion vehicles under the program will land surface assault elements to support Operational Maneuvers from the Sea (OMFTS) while being based on mobile landing platforms and amphibious ships at over-the-horizon distances.
Air Cushion Vehicles under the SSC have a service life of 30 years and can carry 74 tons of payloads at speeds exceeding 35 knots during days and nights. Plus they are designed to operate reliably in the toughest of coastal conditions. They can therefore rapidly deliver personnel and heavy equipment for Marine Expeditionary Force operations from the sea base to trafficable terrain far beyond the beach.
Hovercraft in Action
The amphibious lift requirement of the SSC takes care of the surface assault part of the tactical plan of the U.S. Joint Expeditionary Maneuver Welfare – they can launch and sustain military missions from the sea irrespective of underwater hurdles, tides, beach gradient, and water depth.
With these vessels, the Navy and Marine Corps vastly improve their ability to execute a whole range of operations from multidimensional amphibious assault and emergency-disaster response to humanitarian support.
Most importantly, the SSC looks proactively into the estimated nature of future missions and develops operational capability to deal with them. Towards this end, it cuts down maintenance through existing shore-based infrastructure, vastly improves fuel efficiency, brings in better technology, and boots performance.
Company Profile & the Peculiar Contract
Founded in 1923 and incorporated in 1967, Textron Inc. serves the defense, homeland security, aerospace, and general aviation markets. A multi-industry company, it is engaged in defense, aircraft, industrial, and finance business. It is headquartered in Providence, Rhode Island, United States with revenues of $12.1 billion from operations in over 25 countries.
Textron was selected after a process of full and open competition under which the Navy’s in-house design was released to the industry. Mid-level players without ACV experience were allowed to bid. While the Navy provides the technical acumen, Textron will deal with the design details and select parts with optimum performance and lowest costs.
With the U.S. maintaining a military presence across the globe and with its defense products highly sought in the international arms market, the SSC program is a great way to stay ahead of the times.