The US Navy Naval Sea Systems Command has exercised a contract option for the delivery of two next-generation landing craft, air cushion (LCAC) vehicles from Textron Systems Marine and Land Systems.

The $84.08m order also includes supply of associated technical manuals as part of the navy’s Ship-to-Shore Connector (SSC) programme.

Textron Systems Marine and Land Systems senior vice-president and general manager Tom Walmsley said: "The multi-million dollar technology investments we’ve made for the SSC programme at our 600,000ft² shipyard are set to deliver important dividends to our navy customer in terms of manufacturing efficiencies, productivity and quality.

"The new craft our team is fabricating and assembling will offer improved performance over legacy LCAC along with enhancements that will increase availability and reduce ownership costs for the navy."

Assembly of crafts, designated as 102 and 103, will be carried out at the company’s New Orleans Shipyard, US, with deliveries expected in the fourth quarter of 2019.

With a 30-year service life, the new LCAC vehicles are designed to offer increased reliability and craft availability as well as reduced life-cycle maintenance costs.

Powered by Rolls-Royce engines for more fuel efficiency, the new air cushion vehicles will feature an advanced skirt, a pilot/co-pilot arrangement, a cargo deck to accommodate a 74 short ton payload (up to M1A1 Tank).

"The new craft our team is fabricating and assembling will offer improved performance over legacy LCAC."

Being developed as replacement for the navy’s existing fleet of LCACs, the SSC craft will operate from the navy’s amphibious ships and mobile landing platforms.

The crafts will be used to land surface assault elements in support of operational manoeuvre from the sea, at over-the-horizon distances, as well as for humanitarian and disaster relief missions.

In July 2012, Textron Systems was awarded a $213m contract to design and build a SSC test and training craft (LCAC 100) with scheduled delivery in 2017.

This contract included options worth a total potential value of $570m for up to eight production craft to be delivered by 2020. The first contract option for LCAC 101 was awarded in August 2014.

The US Navy’s SSC programme has a total requirement of 73 craft, including one Test and Training and 72 operational craft.

Image: The US Navy’s ship-to-shore connector (SSC) craft. Photo: courtesy of Textron Inc.