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By Kris Osborn - Warrior Maven

The Navy’s 2023 budget request is expanding the service’s need to conduct ship-to-shore amphibious attack operations by requesting two additional new Ship-to-Shore Connector vehicles. 

Ship-to-Shore Connector vehicles (SSCs)

The new SSCs, now in production, build upon and upgrade the mission long-performed by the Navy’s Landing Craft Air Cushions (LCAC).

PANAMA CITY, Fla. - The Navy’s newest Landing Craft Air Cushion (LCAC) hovercraft arrived at Naval Surface Warfare Center Panama City Division Sept. 2. The two craft, LCAC-100 and LCAC-101, were escorted by NSWC PCD’s research, development, test and evaluation craft, LCAC-91.This effort is part of the Navy’s Ship to Shore Connector program which calls for the procurement of 72 craft with a separate craft serving as a test and training craft.

PANAMA CITY, Fla. - The Navy’s newest Landing Craft Air Cushion (LCAC) hovercraft arrived at Naval Surface Warfare Center Panama City Division Sept. 2. The two craft, LCAC-100 and LCAC-101, were escorted by NSWC PCD’s research, development, test and evaluation craft, LCAC-91.This effort is part of the Navy’s Ship to Shore Connector program which calls for the procurement of 72 craft with a separate craft serving as a test and training craft.

The new SSCs utilize new computerized controls, an upgraded Rolls Royce engine and introduce a heavier payload capacity sufficient to transport 70-ton Abrams tanks from ship-to-shore.

The Navy’s 72 existing LCACs, in service since the 80s, can only transport up to 60-tons, reach speeds of 36-knots and travel ranges up to 200 nautical miles from amphibious vehicles, Navy officials explained.

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Textron engineers have told The National Interest that the SSC is built with digital flight controls and computer automation to replace the traditional yoke and pedals used by current connectors. As a result, on-board computers will quickly calculate relevant details such as wind speed and navigational information, they explained.

Two of the Navy’s newest Landing Craft Air Cushion hovercraft arrive at Naval Surface Warfare Center Panama City Division in Florida Sept. 2, 2020. (Navy)

Two of the Navy’s newest Landing Craft Air Cushion hovercraft arrive at Naval Surface Warfare Center Panama City Division in Florida Sept. 2, 2020. (Navy)

The new SSC's have also moved to a lower frequency for ship electronics, moving from 400 Hertz down to 60 Hertz in order to better synchronize ship systems with Navy common standards, Textron developers explained. Along with these properties, the new craft reduces the number of gear boxes from eight to two.

It makes sense that the Navy would want to request more landing craft connectors, given that the services Distributed Maritime Operation strategy calls for faster-moving, disaggregated yet highly networked operations across wider swaths of ocean. This makes forces less condensed or concentrated, therefore reducing their vulnerability to enemy fire, while also greatly increasing the ability to reinforce a beachhead amphibious landing with Marines, weapons, supplies and even heavily-armored vehicles such as tanks.

Since potential adversaries now have longer-range weapons, better sensors and targeting technologies and computers with faster processing speeds, amphibious forces approaching the shore may need to disperse in order to make it harder for enemy forces to target them. This phenomenon, wherein potential adversaries have advanced weaponry designed to make it harder for U.S. forces to operate in certain areas such as closer to the shore, is described by Pentagon analysts as “anti-access/area-denial.”

Kris Osborn is the Defense Editor for the National Interest. Osborn previously served at the Pentagon as a Highly Qualified Expert with the Office of the Assistant Secretary of the Army—Acquisition, Logistics & Technology. Osborn has also worked as an anchor and on-air military specialist at national TV networks. He has appeared as a guest military expert on Fox News, MSNBC, The Military Channel, and The History Channel. He also has a Masters Degree in Comparative Literature from Columbia University.

Kris Osborn, Warrior Maven President

Kris Osborn, Warrior Maven President, Center for Military Modernization