Hardware Upgrades Help Keep Fleet Modern

One of the ways that the Navy keeps the fleet modern and up to date is, when appropriate, modernizing existing hardware. In this blog, we explore how this effort benefits our warfighter by improving on the previous version.

Landing Craft Air Cushion (LCAC) 8 assigned to Naval Beach Unit (NBU) 7, departs the well deck of the forward-deployed amphibious assault ship USS Bonhomme Richard (LHD 6), Feb. 10. (U. S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Jerome D. Johnson/Released)

Landing Craft Air Cushion (LCAC) 8 assigned to Naval Beach Unit (NBU) 7, departs the well deck of the forward-deployed amphibious assault ship USS Bonhomme Richard (LHD 6), Feb. 10. (U. S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Jerome D. Johnson/Released)

LCAC by Rear Adm. Dave Lewis, Program Executive Officer, Ships

The Navy’s legacy fleet of landing craft, air-cushioned vessels, known as LCACs, are benefitting from a service life extension in order to keep them operational until replaced by a new class of landing craft, the Ship to Shore Connector. Originally designed to be in service for 20 years, the program will extend the class’s operational life to 30 years.

The fully amphibious LCACs are capable of carrying a 60 to 75 tons of equipment, including M-1 tanks, while travel at speeds of more than 40 knots. Because they ride on a cushion of air — no part of an LCACs hull penetrates the surface of the water — the vessels are less susceptible to mines than other assault craft or vehicles.

The LCAC Service Life Extension Program, which began in 2000, is actively improving these versatile platforms. In conjunction with repairs and craft mods to extend the service life, the program includes upgrading the power train to decrease fuel consumption and maintenance while providing additional power to the craft. The Navy also is replacing older technologies, including the command, control, communications, computer and navigation systems.

Of the 91 LCACs originally built, the Navy intends to put 72 operational craft and one test craft through the Service Life Extension Program. As of February 2013, 43 craft have received upgrades, eight additional crafts are currently undergoing upgrades and an additional 22 crafts are planned for upgrades through Fiscal Year 2018.

The LCACs will continue to support a wide range of amphibious operations until the replacement Ship to Shore Connectors reach initial operational capability in 2020.

Lt. Matt Reed, assigned to the Rampagers of Strike Fighter Squadron (VFA) 83 embarked aboard aircraft carrier USS Dwight D. Eisenhower (CVN 69), pilots an F/A-18C Hornet over Afghanistan in support of Operation Enduring Freedom,  Oct. 7, 2012. (U.S. Navy photo by Lt. Greg Linderman/Released)

Lt. Matt Reed, assigned to the Rampagers of Strike Fighter Squadron (VFA) 83 embarked aboard aircraft carrier USS Dwight D. Eisenhower (CVN 69), pilots an F/A-18C Hornet over Afghanistan in support of Operation Enduring Freedom, Oct. 7, 2012. (U.S. Navy photo by Lt. Greg Linderman/Released)

F/A-18A-D by the F/A-18 and EA-18G Program Office (PMA-265)

The Navy has been aggressively managing the entire Hornet/Super Hornet inventory very carefully since the aircraft’s introduction to the fleet to ensure the inventory meets the fleet Tactical Aircraft fleet response plan requirements.

Our Structural Life Management Plan encompasses a Service Life Assessment Program, which is an extensive evaluation of opportunities to extend service life design limits, and the Service Life Extension Program, which are the activities we put in place including inspections and structural enhancements to reach the projected goals highlighted during Service Life Assessment Program. The Service Life Extension Program will not entirely eliminate the Tactical Aircraft inventory gap, as it exists due to shortages of overall Tactical Aircraft assets/airframes.

The F/A-18A-D Service Life Extension Plan effort has utilized a phased approach since inception. This approach addresses the most critical airframe requirements first to ensure timely fielding of priority inspections and modifications, and also reduces both airworthiness and cost risks and provides opportunities for trade space in the later years of the program. We continue to keep the F/A-18A-D Hornet fleet safely flying. To date the Hornet’s service life has been extended an additional 3,000 flight hours, which equates to approximately eight to 10 years of additional flying beyond the original design life of 6,000 flight hours.

We also continue to invest in capability upgrades to our Hornets to ensure their sustained survivability and viability in tomorrow’s threat environment. Examples include Link 16, Joint Helmet-Mounted Cueing System, further radar upgrades, continued electronic warfare suite enhancements, improved targeting capabilities including Advanced Targeting Forward Looking Infrared and precision weapons enhancements.

The Navy will need all available assets over the next decade to meet Tactical Aircraft inventory objectives and operational commitments. The Service Life Extension Plan will enable the Navy to get more service life out of these aircraft in a cost effective manner.

An MH-60R Sea Hawk assigned to Helicopter Maritime Strike Squadron (HSM) 75 takes off from the deck of the Canadian frigate HMCS Regina (FFH 334) while conducting a passing exercise (PASSEX), Feb. 11, 2013. (U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class David Hooper/Released)

An MH-60R Sea Hawk assigned to Helicopter Maritime Strike Squadron (HSM) 75 takes off from the deck of the Canadian frigate HMCS Regina (FFH 334) while conducting a passing exercise (PASSEX), Feb. 11, 2013. (U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class David Hooper/Released)

MH-60 by Woody Payton, Naval Air Systems Command

MH-60 modernization efforts are planned to be a cost effective, government funded and implemented option to new helicopter procurement. Ongoing efforts include the installation of a common cockpit suite, integrated missions systems and sensors, Airborne Mine Counter-Measures, Airborne Low Frequency Sonar, and the Automatic Radar Periscope Detection and Discrimination system. These and other enhancements give the Navy the most technologically-advanced maritime helicopter fleet in the world, while lowering operation and maintenance cost throughout the aircraft lifecycle. The Navy’s H-60 Multi-Mission Helicopters Program Office, PMA-299, will continue to pursue innovative and cost-effective alternatives for aircraft modernization and sustainment that are crucial to keeping the Navy’s fleet of MH-60 series aircraft capable and relevant into the foreseeable future.