NEW ORLEANS, Nov. 19 (UPI) -- The U.S. Navy says Textron Inc. has started fabrication of the Navy's first Ship to Shore Connector, a next-generation Landing Craft, Air Cushion boat.
The Ship to Shore Connector is to replace existing LCACs, which are coming to the end of their operational service life.
Navy approval of construction of the first of 73 planned boats follows the SSC Production Readiness Review, during which the Navy evaluated the design maturity, availability of materials, and industry's ability to start and sustain fabrication.
"It's an exciting time," said Capt. Chris Mercer, program executive office ships program manager for amphibious warfare. "Starting production on this next generation Landing Craft, Air Cushion is a significant milestone for the Navy and Marine Corps.
"The craft benefits from a mature design and sound production process, paving the way for many more craft to follow. Once delivered, these craft will fill a critical need to recapitalize the Navy's surface connectors."
The new boats will use more corrosion-resistant aluminum in the hull than current LCACs and composites in the propeller shroud assembly and shafting to increase operational availability and to lower life-cycle maintenance costs. The amphibious landing craft can carry a 74-ton payload and travel at speeds of more than 35 knots.
A personnel transport module can be loaded aboard the boat and can accommodate as many as 145 combat-equipped Marines.