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LCU Replacement in Preliminary Design, Anticipating 2022 Fleet Debut

Marines aboard Landing Craft Utility (LCU) 1655 approach the well deck of the amphibious assault ship USS Bataan (LHD-5) on Aug. 22, 2014. US Navy Photo

Marines aboard Landing Craft Utility (LCU) 1655 approach the well deck of the amphibious assault ship USS Bataan (LHD-5) on Aug. 22, 2014. US Navy Photo

The Navy is doing preliminary design work on its Landing Craft Utility (LCU) replacement now to begin construction within about three years, in time to support one-for-one replacement on the surface connectors in 2022.

The LCUs were first built in 1959, and the 32 craft still in service average more than 43 years old – well over the 25 years of service life they were built for, Capt. Chris Mercer, amphibious warfare program manager at Naval Sea Systems Command, said at the Navy League’s Sea-Air-Space 2015 Exposition last week.

“We spend a lot of money keeping these things running. A lot of structural repairs, a lot of machinery repairs, and it’s time to invest in new,” he said.

Director of expeditionary warfare Maj. Gen. Robert Walsh echoed that sentiment during a different presentation at the conference, saying “we put them in drydock, and it costs a significant amount of money and we’re losing capability. For example on the LCUs, we used to be able to carry two tanks. Just this last summer we reduced that capability down to one tank.”

The LCUs serve as the “workhorse” of the surface connector fleet – they go slower but could originally carry 125 tons of cargo, two tanks, 10 light armored vehicles or more than 400 troops. Landing Craft Air Cushions (LCACs), on the other hand, can exceed 40 knots but only haul 60 tons.

Mercer, who will carry out the Surface Connector X Replacement (SC(X)R) acquisition program based on Walsh’s requirements, said an analysis of alternatives was conducted last year, with the Navy and Marine Corps deciding on “a modified repeat of the LCU – rugged, reliable, designed for ease of maintenance and repair, fuel-efficient, with a high payload, able to do independent operations and really no impact to the infrastructure of the [Assault Craft Units].”

The Navy is currently in the preliminary design review, Mercer said, with Walsh adding the SC(X)Rs – also called LCU 1700s – would come off the production line in time for one-for-one replacements starting in 2022. Production of the LCAC replacements, the Ship-to-Shore Connectors (SSCs), is two years ahead and is also a modified repeat.

“We are replacing them both in-kind while leveraging today’s technology to make these new craft more efficient, easier to operate and maintain,” Walsh said.

Naval Sea Systems Command has already begun seeking industry feedback on SC(X)R components to help meet Mercer’s and Walsh’s requirements to be more efficient and require less maintenance. One request for information, dated April 16, asks for a low-electromagnetic inference light emitting diode (LED) system “to support the design of the LCU 1700 leading to the start of construction within the next three years.”

A March 18 request for information seeking anchor winch systems asks for weight reduction if possible, as the Navy is hoping to “accommodate an increase of the craft approach speed into the beach from the present 6.3 knots to 10 knots threshold or 11.6 knots objective.”

  • Rob C.

    Keep it Simple Stupid – That’s the way to go. Hopefully, no problems comes up getting the LCU 1700s up and running.

    • Secundius

      @ Rob C.

      There’s NO FIRM construction date for the LCU-1700’s. All any documentation I could find say’s, WITHIN the next 3-years and that’s it. So between 2015 through to 2017…

      • old guy

        Lost the thread we were on but I found a newer vehicle pair that seems to meet the one I helped cancel for overweight.
        It is the, M109A2 PAL:ADIN, 155MM gun, coupled to a FAASV. The combo weighs in at a hefty 80 tons, loaded. Boy, you can’t put a good lobbyist down.

        • Secundius

          @ old guy.

          XM2001 & XM2002 Crusader…

  • old guy

    We need a new LCU like we need a Higgins craft. SLOOOOW, VULNERABLE and inefficient. The LCACs are much better for administrative logistics and troop ride comfort. No wading needed..
    We will NEVER have a D-DAY type landing ever again. The world has moved to a completely different configuration. Can you imagine, in this day and age sneaking a multi-thousand ship convoy unopposed? C’mon kids, think about GPS, Satellites, and UAV swarms.
    Kick out the DEEP (mired) thinkers and get some realists into the requirements field. Sorry, but past bravery and brains just WILL NOT win it for us. Look at the failures of the past two Chairmen of the JCS. Get that type out and let them sit (deservedly) on their laurels and get some REAL FORWARD thinkers in there!

    • Marjus Plaku

      What are you talking about, the ability to take and hold land is still the undisputed KING of modern warfare. Your enemy can’t do squat running for its life while you take its lunch money, lunch and land because you can do combined amphibious and expeditionary land assaults. This technology and concept is very much needed but quicker and better, as the battle we will fight tomorrow we should have been prepared yesterday for.

      • old guy

        Got your drift, but you, obviously, did not get mine. Boots on the ground are vital, but not with ancient devices. NEW thinking is now a must. I believe you might just be mired in the past, I hope not.

  • Marjus Plaku

    Jesus about time, these things always made me think of D-Day, and they are basically almost just as old. It’s really a shame we have not figured out the amphibious game yet, that distraction in the sandbox for all those years did its job I guess. There should already be highspeed, armored, assault amphibs and well as fast and protected troop transports. The tip of the spear out to be better served than riding into battle head on in 30 year old AAAVs.

  • Franek

    The LCU is not an assault craft. It is meant to haul tons of supplies ashore once the beach has
    Been taken. The simpler,the better. We always get into trouble adding unnecessary requirements
    That cannot be maintained and get away from the intended mission.

    • old guy

      AGREE, but how, just how are you going to TAKE that beach? Once you have a landing area, it’s easy to set an administrative port using LCACs, Quay facilities, ship-to-shore and across the shore facilities, all relatively straight forward. I repeat the problem is how do you TAKE that beach in the current technological environment.

  • Ctrot

    We get it. What is the point of posting this same comment over and over and over again?
    Moderator: at what point is this going to be considered SPAM?

    • old guy

      Forgive him. Sometimes we have to follow”The Old Preacher’s Method”. That is: “Tell ’em what your gonna tell ’em. Then tell ’em. Then tell ’em what you told ’em.”

      • Ctrot

        Nope. Click on his name and read his comments, all of them. It is the same thing over and over. It is ridiculous and childish.

        • old guy

          OUCH, I agree. 3 times is plenty.

  • Secundius

    Well there’s always the US. Army-Navy’s, Runnymede class LCU-2000 class…

  • CDR K. Mason, LDO, USN, (Ret)

    Several items: The (LCU) All 3 classes), could originally carry 3 M-60 Tanks, or 2 M-1’s/A2’s, various cargo, 400 Combat Troops or 180 Tons equivalency. As their superstructures aged, this was modified accordingly. Hitting the beach at 10 knots would cause a massive cargo/vehicle shift that would break the tie downs on your cargo, so that does not happen. Also, depending on time, and timelines, as you on/off-load equipment you are shifting forward/retracting to stabilize your beaching.
    You need to prevent grounding and having to pump out your ballast tanks to assist in retracting. (time consuming) You cross the “line of departure” at Battle speed, or if launched over the horizon on scheduled track, and land according to time lines. You hit the beach at speeds depending on beach angle, bottom type, tide, time of landing, type of cargo which impacts what your off-load/on-load times are, because you don’t want to off-load combat laden Marines on a sand bar, or in deep swells/waters, and you don’t want to shove yourself so far up the beach that you need assistance retracting.
    LCU landings are generally admin loads, which means they come in after the beach head is secured. This is after AAV’s and Beach Master’s are in place.
    Also, they can work separately or in conjunction with LCAC’s, although on segregated landing zones. The replacement need to carry as much and be as capable as the original, with slightly longer legs, better comms, better radar, and better support capability for evacuating troops, dealing with CBR, and contaminated environments, and supporting MIO/NEO Operations.
    It does not need to hit the beach harder.
    Experience: I was an BMC (SW/DV) LCU OIC,/Craft Master in Desert Shield and Desert Storm.

  • Ed L

    that Runnymede class LCU-2000 is huge compare to the LCU currently in use. over 60 feet longer and what a superstructure. Which would have to be reduced in height to get into a welldeck

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