The Landing Craft, Air Cushion (LCAC) is a high-speed, over-the-beach, fully amphibious landing craft, capable of carrying a 60-75 ton payload. It is used to transport the weapons systems, equipment, cargo and personnel of the assault elements of the Marine Air-Ground Task Force from ship to shore and across the beach. LCAC can carry heavy payloads, such as an M1 tank, at high speeds. The LCAC payload capability and speed combine to significantly increase the ability of the Marine Ground Element to reach the shore. Air cushion technology allows this vehicle to reach more than 70 percent of the world's coastline, while only about 15 percent of that coastline is accessible by conventional landing craft.
The LCAC rides on a cushion of air. The air is supplied to the cushion by four centrifugal fans driven by the craft's gas turbine engines. The air is enclosed by a flexible skirt system manufactured of rubberized canvas. No portion of the LCAC hull structure penetrates the water surface, the entire hull rides approximately four feet above the surface, making the craft able to operate in waters regardless of depth, underwater obstacles, shallows or adverse tides. It can proceed inland as well, regardless of terrain or topography, including mud flats, sand dunes, ditches, marshlands, riverbanks, wet snow, or slippery and icy shorelines.
The Service Life Extension Program (SLEP) for the 74 active LCACs extends hull life from 20 years to 40 years. The actual SLEP modifications are conducted in two phases. Phase I involves replacing current electronics components, which are increasingly becoming obsolete and unsupportable, with an open electronics architecture using easily upgraded, Commercial Off-The-Shelf (COTS) components. The new electronics suite is more reliable and less costly to operate and maintain. In Phase II, the buoyancy box is being replaced with a more modern design, advanced coatings and changes in materials. These modifications increase the LCAC’s resistance to corrosion. Phase II also included the electronics upgrade of Phase I, until the entire active fleet was outfitted with the new configuration. The new buoyancy box incorporates improvements to damage stability and trim control of the LCACs.
1 Craft Master (the LCAC Craftmaster is trained in the knowledge and skills required to operate the LCAC in normal, emergency, and degraded modes over water and land in all conditions, including the ship’s well deck entry/exit)
1 Navigator (the LCAC Navigator is given the necessary information, skill development, and practical application on High Speed Radar Navigation, tactical maneuvering, and communication techniques necessary for LCAC operation)
Loading and Maintenance Crew
1 Engineer (the LCAC Engineer is trained in the duties specifically in the area of electrical/mechanical systems operation and control systems. Equipment casualty control procedures and basic craft operational capabilities. Provide the knowledge and skills required to function as the Assistant Operator assisting in operating the LCAC in normal emergency and degraded modes; over water and land in all conditions, including ships well deck entry/exit)
1 Load Master (the LCAC Loadmaster directs and assists the loading, unloading, and securing of cargo onboad LCAC. Ensures accuracy of craft weight and center of gravity. Acts as Port Lookout during underway operations and supervises all seamanship evolutions. Performs craft inspections and accomplishment of maintenance, modifications, and repair of deck equipment)
1 Deck Engineer (the LCAC Deck Engineer assists the Craft Engineer with at sea troubleshooting and repair of engineering systems. Assists the Craft Engineer in the daily performance of craft operations and conducts routine maintenance on craft control, propulsion, and lift systems. May act as Port Lookout during underway operations)