The Navy recently successfully tested two new Ship to Shore Connector (SSC) Landing Craft Air Cushion (LCAC) vessels interfacing with the USS Carter Hall (LSD-50) dock landing ship, the service said Feb. 10

The Navy noted this included well deck interoperability testing between the SSCs and LSD-50, helping move the craft another step toward fleet integration. 

This test was conducted as part of the first phase of ship interface testing and “helped validate user requirements by performing multiple well deck entries and exits from USS Carter Hall.”

The SSCs are built with similar dimensions, configurations and interfaces as the legacy LCAC-01 class, but are equipped with better engines, higher payloads, smaller crews, fly-by-wire controls and simpler maintenance. The new vessels are designated the LCAC-100 class.

“This is an exciting period for the Ship to Shore Connector program as we continue to validate user requirements and get the craft ready for their eventual fleet tasking,” Capt. Scot Searles, program manager for Amphibious Assault and Connectors Programs at Program Executive Office (PEO) Ships, said in a statement.

The SSC had previously only been testing with a mock well deck at Naval Surface Warfare Center (NSWC) Panama City.

“The Ship to Shore Connector integration testing has occurred within the last couple days, actually,” Tom Rivers, Executive Director for Amphibious, Auxiliary and Sealift at Program Executive Office, Ships, said Thursday during a virtual National Defense Industrial Association conference.

“It means going inside the well deck and checking to make sure the fit is perfect, that the services that connect to those craft work, that the heat that comes off the engines do not cause any damage to the receiving ship, in this case Carter Hall, or causes any issues with the people walking around in the well deck area.”

Rivers said LSD-50 will next take the SSCs to Assault Craft Unit (ACU) 4. He said they should arrive fairly soon “and the great news is the ACU will start having a chance to actually operate and play with them.”

Rivers noted while having two SSCs to test is good, the Navy needs six before it can reach initial operating capability (IOC), which is based on the fact that a detachment of LCAC generally consists of six vessels.

The SSC program is in serial production on LCACs 104-116. The Navy said four more craft are set to be delivered this year.

In January, Searles said the Navy is pushing to maintain four SSC deliveries annually, up from two per year over the last two years (Defense Daily, Jan. 13).

Textron Systems [TXT] produces the SSCs at its New Orleans shipyard. They have a designed service life of 30 years and can transport 60 to 70 tons of personnel, weapons, equipment and cargo at over-the-horizon distances from amphibious ships like LSD-50. The Navy plans to ultimately procure 72 vessels.

In December, the Navy received LCAC-104, which was moved to NSWC Panama City, Fla., for testing.