Thursday, November 8, 2018

SSC Update


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 New Orleans bayou in 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.



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(1)USNI News website, “First Ship-to-Shore Connector Begins On-Water Testing in New Orleans”, Megan Eckstein, April 17, 2018,

(2)Naval Sea Systems Command website,


20 comments:

  1. There is a lot to be said for an iterative design process where the design philosophy is "We're doing what we know works, and we're doing it better."

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  2. In terms of bad news a Swedish Frigate collided with an Oil Tanker. It sustained a deep gash on its side and the crew beached her. The Oil Tanker not even a warship got off with little damage and no oil leakage from it. Yeah these glass cannon ships aren’t going to hold up to warfare at all. Much less a collision involving a civilian vessel.

    https://news.usni.org/2018/11/08/video-norwegian-frigate-intentionally-grounded-collision-tanker

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    1. You're forgetting that said frigate was 5300 tons, while said oil tanker is 62000 tons, or just under 12 times the displacement of that frigate. Obviously, when a heavy thing and a light thing collide, the light thing is going to take more damage than the heavy thing, it's simple physics. Plus given how quickly Helge Instad started listing and had to be run aground to keep from sinking, it's quite likely the tanker ripped a hole in the hull, below the waterline.

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    2. " it's quite likely the tanker ripped a hole in the hull, below the waterline."

      Relative to missile impacts, the collision occurred at zero speed. A well designed warship should be compartmented to the extent that a single hole below the waterline should not be instant death especially when there is no accompanying explosion and fire.
      We haven't heard any details yet so we can't comment on any specifics but it doesn't look like the ship was a good WARship design.

      Recall the beatings that many 2500 ton Fletchers (half the displacement of the Nansen) took and compare to this. This Nansen does not look good in comparison.

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    3. Impact force is speed x mass, and there's a lot of mass in that tanker. The problem with taking damage under the waterline is that no only do you have that hole in your hull, you're also got the hydralic ram effect... Looking at the size of that gash on the superstructure, as well as how badly the ship started listing, suggests that there was a pretty big hole below the waterline, more than closing watertight compartments could mitigate. Or maybe the crew was IJN-tier incompetent and didn't close the watertight compartments; we'll only know once the ship is salvaged and inspected. ¯\_(ツ)_/¯

      Regardless, the point I was trying to make to Dio Brando is that he's comparing apples to oranges, and the physics of the matter mean that you're not really going to be able to avoid damage from colliding with a ship a dozen times your displacement and being so much fucking bigger than you.

      The real way you avoid collision damage with a tanker is by not getting hit in the first place, which boils down to a seamanship and training issue (which, for the USN, is not helped by how, at the advice of civilian consultants, the USN closed down SWO school as a cost-cutting measure, expecting JOs to self-study while at sea).

      The BBC meanwhile is reporting that the tanker contacted the frigate and warned they appeared to be a collision course, to which the frigate replied back they had it under control. Then crunch. :/

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    4. Of course you can't avoid damage in a collision but a warship is supposed to be built to absorb, mitigate, and control damage. Again, this was not an explosion and fire. It seems obvious that this was a poor warship design. I'm not going to belabor this.

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  3. For what its worth, the British LCVP Mk5 can make 25 knots with a crew of 3 and 35 troops.

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  4. What is your opinion on the Russian Zubr class hovercraft? Would something like it be worth looking at?

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    1. No. Our need is for initial assault wave transport and the Zubr, like the LCAC, is not survivable in the initial, opposed assault. For the follow on, we need large volume, rugged, LSTs.

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    2. Did you have a design or spec in mind for the LST? I can see how a design like the British LCVP could be rugged and easily deployed in large numbers from APA-type ships and might be survivable if accompanied by LCVP-based support ships (like the WW2 LCS). Vessels such as LCUs and LSTs are going to be much larger and thus more vulnerable so are we talking stealth, speed, armour, firepower or some combination to get then to the beach? Stealth seems too expensive to allow deployment in numbers, speed doesn't give much over the LCAC so some sort of monitor to suppress enemy fire close-in and allow more conventional LSTs in large number to hit the beach? Longer range fire suppression of artillery from the existing missiles/aircraft etc?

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    3. LCACs, LSTs, LCUs, etc. are all follow on, sustainment vessels. They are not intended for initial wave, contested entry. Thus, the main design requirement is a reasonable, semi-large, mixed load (thus, not an LCAC) with fairly rapid unload capability and a couple of CIWS.

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    4. So AAAV for initial assault or LCVP + LCVP-based fire support vessels?

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    5. The AAV is only a partial solution since it does nothing to get firepower and armor ashore in the initial wave. We need some sort of tank landing craft or an amphibious tank.

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    6. For survivability on initial assault has anyone ever made a submerged "LST"? It would be hard to target?

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    7. "submerged "LST" "

      It's been brought up several times. I even posted a concept drawing I made, awhile back!

      Remember, though, the main threat to an amphibious landing is probably surf zone mines and a submerged vessel would actually increase the risk!

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    8. So something like a ZTD05 or heavier? Maybe unmanned to reduce casualties?

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  5. Off Topic. There was a public reference to a US Navy ship visit to ROC on RT. The article mentions that there is a proposal to give/lend Taiping Island to the US. ComNavOps did mention of an upcoming article involving an island seizure. Is it Taiping?

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  6. Taiping Island is very small but does have significant fresh water supply.

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