Despite what long time readers might think, ComNavOps loves to report good news. The problem is there is so little of it to report! Here, however, is some possible good news about the Navy’s Ship to Shore Connector (SSC) which is the LCAC replacement.
I have to stop at this point and offer the disclaimer that I’m pretty much dead set against the SSC/LCAC as a landing craft. I greatly prefer LSTs and LCUs. So, I find the entire SSC/LCAC program to be a waste of money and effort. That said, the SSC program appears to be proceeding smoothly and - dare I say it? – wisely.
To refresh, the SSC is basically a rehash of the LCAC with maintenance and reliability improvements as well as various electronics upgrades. Here’s a few basic specs on the SSC.
Troop Capacity 145
Weight Capacity 74 tons
Range 25 nm minimum
The program is planned to deliver 72 operational craft with a unit cost of around $50M each. Delivery is scheduled to begin in 2018 with Initial Operating Capability (IOC) in 2020.
The manufacturer, Textron, began testing of the first SSC (they refer to it as LCAC 100) in April of 2018 in a
bayou in New Orleans . Louisiana
One of the interesting capabilities is the ability to launch vehicles into the water rather than having to land to disembark. (3) As we know, the Marine’s AAVs are limited to around 2-5 miles water transit before the embarked troops become too seasick to function. Thus, the doctrine of standing 25-50+ miles offshore to conduct an amphibious assault is simply not viable. One of the proposed solutions is to use another vessel to quickly transport the AAVs to with a few miles of the beach and drop them into the water for the final approach. Thus, while the LCAC/SSC is doctrinally considered non-survivable and unsuited for initial assault waves, the SSC, if it can unload AAVs in stride, can provide a means to get the AAVs in range without exposing the SSC to undue risk. Of course, how valid the assumption is that a few miles offshore is far enough to maintain the survivability of the SSC is highly questionable in the age of rockets, artillery, and missiles!
Scott Allen, Textron’s vice president for marine systems, noted that while the individual upgraded components were all technically mature, the challenge was in integrating them. Integration is an often overlooked challenge that has tripped up many a program. Good to see that Textron is aware of the challenge and addressing it up front.
Just as an interesting tidbit, Allen noted that the SSC has 66 individual compartments! Who would have guessed that in a small craft like that? He further noted that the compartments present their own challenge in terms of running cables and piping since every penetration has to be made watertight.
According to the Navy, the SSC is the first major program to be designed in-house by the Navy in quite some time. (2) I don’t know to what degree that refers. Was it just the requirements or was it nuts and bolts construction drawings or something in between? The contractors that bid on the construction were, apparently, allowed to choose their own components so the design was not, presumably, at the construction drawing level of detail. It sounds like the design was just a requirements level design which is not exactly designing in-house in the sense that most of us would think. Still, it appears to be a step in the right direction.
Here’s the main shining beacon of wisdom in the program – it has no concurrency!
Allen said testing on LCAC 100 had shown “no show-stoppers” in terms of finding deficiencies or changes that need to be inserted into the production line, but he did note that “all of the learning that we got from 100 is rolled back into 101 – so where you discover things and it takes some time to work through it, we’re able to actually already have that baked in when 101 comes off the line at the end of this month. It will save us a lot of time in testing going forward.” (1)
Wow! Unlike every other Navy acquisition program, the SSC appears to be building an initial craft, testing it, and rolling the findings back into the construction of the next craft – you know, just like any intelligent person would do. It’s a sad commentary on the state of affairs in the Navy that doing something in a logical manner would warrant praise but that’s what it’s come to. I’d love to know who insisted on this simple and correct approach. Was it the Navy or the manufacturer? If it was the Navy, why only on this program?
In any event, this is programmatically outstanding. Now, I just wish they’d apply this common sense to a truly useful landing craft like a modern LST/LCU and, maybe, a modern LCVP.
(1)USNI News website, “First Ship-to-Shore Connector Begins On-Water Testing in
”, Megan Eckstein, New Orleans April 17, 2018,
(2)Naval Sea Systems Command website,