June 28, 2013: The U.S. Navy is seeking replacements for its 32 LCUs (Landing Craft Utility), which are all over 40 years old and fading fast. LCUs have a flat bottom and a ramp built into the front of the ship, which can be dropped into shallow water to allow armored vehicles or tucks to leave the ship and move right onto the beach. Current LCUs (LCU 1600s) are 380 ton ships that can carry 125 tons of cargo (two tanks, 400 troops or just cargo). These LCUs have a crew of 13, a top speed of 20 kilometers an hour, and can stay at sea for up to ten days. LCUs were developed during World War II and are still in wide use by nations that have a lot of coastline, or nearby islands, as well as in large amphibious ships (for carrying troops from ship to shore).
The LCU replacement is called SC(X)(R) (for Surface Connector Replacement) and the design is still under consideration. Given the growing cash shortages in the navy, it’s likely that the LCU replacement will just be an updating of the existing design. LCUs were developed during World War II and are still in wide use by nations that have a lot of coastline or nearby islands.
In the 1990s, the U.S. Army replaced its own fleet of LCU 1600s with 34 LCU 2000s. These are 1,087 ton ships that can carry 350 tons (or up to five tanks or 24 cargo containers). The LCU 2000 has the same size crew but can stay at sea for up to 27 days. The army stations some of them overseas (Kuwait, Japan) to help move cargo from anchored ships to shore (and up rivers or numerous bases). The navy may end up following the army lead in choosing an affordable design for its LCU replacement. The navy would like something more exotic but the cash just isn’t there. The army LCU 2000s have been in service nearly two decades now and the army is planning to refurbish them so the ships can serve another decade beyond their designed life of 25 years. If the navy wants a low-risk replacement for its older LCUs, something based on the army LCU is the best candidate.