The Navy's Landing Craft Air Cushion:

Uncertainty Over How It Will Be Used With Amphibious Forces

C-MASAD-82-9: Published: Feb 26, 1982. Publicly Released: Feb 26, 1982.

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The Landing Craft Air Cushion (LCAC) is an advanced design, high-speed air cushion vehicle being developed by the Navy for use in amphibious operations. GAO conducted a review of the LCAC program to provide Congress with an assessment of the program as it approaches the start of production and to identify important issues which should be considered in progressing to full production.

LCAC is being developed to replace current landing craft which possess a number of operational performance limitations. Studies conducted and testing completed on full-scale advanced development air cushion vehicles support the LCAC potential to improve the Navy's surface assault capability. The LCAC is expected to possess a number of operational advantages, such as high overwater speed and the ability to cross the beach and discharge cargo on firm ground. The major disadvantages of the LCAC are the high cost, increased maintenance requirements, and the necessary modifications to ships that will transport it. To take full advantage of the LCAC potential, the Navy and Marine Corps have determined that a revised operational concept and changes to current amphibious operations tactics and doctrine are necessary. It is uncertain how the revised concept will affect the current LCAC mission, performance requirements, the number of craft ultimately required, the planned acquisition of a future Marine Corps assault mission, and the planning and conduct of future LCAC testing and evaluation. As a result of tests on these air cushion vehicles, the Navy has stated that the LCAC has the potential to be operationally effective; however, the test force could not comment on LCAC operational suitability, such as reliability, maintainability, and availability, until after testing and evaluation of representative craft. Prior to the testing and evaluation of representative craft, the Navy plans limited production of 12 LCAC's at a cost of $343 million.

Matter for Congressional Consideration

  1. Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: When we determine what steps the Congress has taken, we will provide updated information.

    Matter: Congress should pay particular attention to the actions surrounding the acquisition of LCAC, a multibillion dollar program.

Recommendations for Executive Action

  1. Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: When we confirm what actions the agency has taken in response to this recommendation, we will provide updated information.

    Recommendation: The Secretary of Defense should closely scrutinize the Navy's acquisitions plans for LCAC during the Program Objective Memorandum and the Program, Planning, and Budgeting System reviews. This would include determining how: (1) the revised LCAC operational concept will influence craft performance requirements, system design, number to be procured, and program cost; (2) LCAC will interface with and influence the composition of future surface assault forces; and (3) the LCAC test program is being structured to ensure that any changes in the craft's performance thresholds as a result of agreements reached on the operational concept have been incorporated into the future test plan.

    Agency Affected: Department of Defense: Department of the Navy

  2. Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: When we confirm what actions the agency has taken in response to this recommendation, we will provide updated information.

    Recommendation: The Secretary of Defense should direct the Secretary of the Navy to make sure that the ongoing lead production effort, regardless of its size, provides adequate milestones for monitoring costs, schedule, and performance progress. Special attention should also be given to those matters not specifically planned for the Secretary of the Navy review, including: (1) the effect that the engine selection will have on the program as currently structured; (2) accumulation of assessable reliability, maintainability, and availability data; and (3) the incorporation into LCAC design of solutions to problems identified during testing of advance development air cushion vehicles, including propeller and lift fan erosion, corrosion of electrical and electronic components, and the need to decrease craft vulnerability.

    Agency Affected: Department of Defense

  3. Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: When we confirm what actions the agency has taken in response to this recommendation, we will provide updated information.

    Recommendation: The Secretary of Defense should require the preparation of Selected Acquisition Reports on LCAC. This would provide decisionmakers and Congress with valuable information.

    Agency Affected: Department of Defense

 

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