Navy Modernizes Amphibious Ships and Hovercraft

Friday, December 21, 2007
By Dan Broadstreet, Naval Surface Warfare Center Panama City Division Public Affairs

Invisible to approximately 5,000 people witnessing the USS Mesa Verde (LPD 19) commissioning ceremony, Dec. 15, a newly modernized landing craft air cushion (LCAC) 39 sat certified and ready for transport within the well deck of the Navy's newest amphibious ship. Mesa Verde had already finished its requisite LCAC certification Dec. 7, which qualify the ship to recover an LCAC and embark on the ship's mission of transporting Marines, their supplies, and equipment, according to Naval Surface Warfare Center (NSWC) Panama City Division Project Engineer Rhett Plash. Plash works with NSWC PCD LCAC in-service engineering activity and operations.

"We're actually a part of the team that performs well deck certifications," Plash said. Plash called it a "lift of opportunity," putting LCAC 39 aboard the Mesa Verde to be ferried to the hovercraft's home-port destination, Assault Craft Unit Four (ACU) 4 located at Naval Amphibious Base Little Creek, Norfolk. The LCAC had also recently undergone required acceptance testing to verify it was upgraded and ready to release to the fleet, according to NSWC PCD Electrical Engineer, Ivan Lugo. "We are responsible for the LCAC service life extension program (SLEP)," Lugo said, adding that NSWC PCD provides design, development, and integration for LCAC equipment and software. Lugo said the current SLEP is structured to extend the service of the LCAC to the year 2025. The fact that both platforms, Mesa Verde and LCAC 39, are modernized with cutting-edge technology and scheduled for entry into active Navy service contributed to a "satisfying and unique situation," according to members from ACU-4. "Mesa Verde is the newest way to fight today's kind of war; and, the new SLEP LCACs are modernized to do the same," said Hull Technician 2nd Class Jacob Peterson, ACU-4. "So, married together, we can do that job even better because of the technological improvements that have been incorporated into both platforms." The LCAC's improvements extend to both performance and comfort according to ACU-4's Craftmaster, Chief Postal Clerk (SW) Charles Moore. "Not only has air-conditioning been added to our LCAC command modules, but we've gone to the LED screens and LED keyboards, which don't generate as much heat as the old Cathode Ray Tubes and the bulb-type indicators did," Moore said. Design improvements to both LCAC and Mesa Verde have made life much better for everyone working with LCAC operations. According to the Sailors, the Navy's attention to their quality of life and work environments is aptly appreciated.

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