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New Air Cushion Landing Craft Program Continues with Award to Rolls-Royce

Update – The Rolls-Royce engine chosen for this application is the engine from the V-22 Osprey. This decision offers some synergy in support and maintenance as the SSC will be operating from ships that also are able to support the V-22.

In July the U.S. Navy awarded Textron (TXT) a contract to begin initial prototype development of the new Ship to Shore Connector (SSC) program. The SSC will ultimately replace the Landing Craft Air Cushion (LCAC) used for the last twenty-five years or more to support amphibious operations.

The LCAC due to its high speed and long range was a key component of the over-the-horizon assault concepts developed during the Eighties. The SSC represents an incremental upgrade to the existing LCAC but will offer improvements based on current technology.

As part of this contract Textron has chosen Rolls-Royce (RR) to provide the engines for the SSC. Rolls-Royce will potentially provide up to 300 engines for 72 landing craft if all parts of the contract are executed.

Rolls-Royce offered an engine to be made in Indiana that should provide more power and better fuel economy.

Photo from Official U.S. Navy Imagery flickr photostream.

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U.S. Navy Awards General Dynamics New Supply Ship Contract

May 30, 2011 by · Comment
Filed under: Editorial 

The U.S. Navy has been exploring a new concept in amphibious support and supply ships. The Mobile Landing Platform ship (MLP) will be a large cargo carrying vessel that is able to lower itself into the sea to make it easy for it to transfer cargo to smaller ships or other platforms including the Landing Craft Air Cushion (LCAC) and conventional landing craft. The program began in the last decades and included proof of purpose tests using existing commercial ships.

MLP will supplement the current Maritime Pre-Positioning Force (MPPF) ships located around the world. These ships which have been in use since the late Eighties provide stocks of equipment and supplies near potential conflict zones. They have the ability to quickly move to a location and offload the equipment to meet up with personnel flown to the area. This means that the U.S. only needs to move troops to an area where due to the MPPF their heavy equipment will be available.

In December of 2009 an initial contract was awarded to General Dynamics (D) to begin system design and other efforts. GD NASSCO shipbuilders on the West Coast was the primary contractor for this effort. The work has been going well and the Navy went ahead and issued a contract for the first two MLP ships to GD NASSCO. This has a value of over $700 million and the ships should be delivered early in 2014.

Investments such as this are necessary to continue the United State’s ability to project power across the globe. Despite the costs of Iraq and Afghanistan the Department of Defense still needs to upgrade its capabilities for all sorts of missions. As the defense budget shrinks money will be more focused on these types of efforts rather then supporting operations.

Photo from U.S. Navy Imagery flickr photostream.

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Navy Moving Forward with New Landing Craft

In the 1980’s as part of the Reagan build up and modernization of the U.S. military the Navy developed and placed into service amphibious assault landing craft based on hovercraft. These Landing Craft Air Cushion (LCAC) have been in service now for almost thirty years and provide the ability to move vehicles and troops at high speed from Naval ships to the shoreline. The Soviets also had introduced hovercraft landing craft but the U.S. with their large amphibious Navy and the Marine Corps operated the most of these systems.

Now the Navy is moving to begin the process of replacing the LCAC. Textron Marine and Land Systems, part of Textron Inc (TXT), announced that they are forming a team including U.S. defense contractor L-3 Communications (LLL) as well as Alcoa Defense, part of Alcoa (AA). The system when it is finally developed and placed into production will be mainly made out of aluminum so the inclusion of Alcoa helps lay the foundation for that process.

The new SSC program is being managed by the NAVSEA command. A presentation about the program from a workshop may be found here.

Another team vying for the contract will be made up of Boeing (BA) and Marinette Marine Corporation (MMC). More information about their team and proposal is here at their website.

The SSC is one of two major programs that are being developed to aid the insertion of Marine and other forces onto a hostile shore. The Marine Corps has been working on the Expeditionary Fighting Vehicle (EFV) for several years. That program is being led by General Dynamics (GD). The program has suffered delays and cost increases and has been criticized but so far has been spared cancellation with the new Obama Administration when they canceled programs like the VH-71 Presidential Helicopter.

These two programs when complete will represent a significant modernization of the Navy and Marine Corps’ ability to project power ashore at high speed. The SSC will be able to move heavy equipment such as tanks ashore while the EFV will carry the infantry needed to conduct battles. The EFV is also designed to fight ashore and act as an armored carrier.

Both of these efforts represent significant work for GD and the winners of the SSC competition.

Photo from UNC-CFC-USFK flickr photostream.

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