Take A Ride On The Navy's Badass Hovercraft And Its Landing Craft Workhorse [PHOTOS]


When the U.S. Navy wants to haul a few hundred tons of troops, material, or gear from ship to shore sailors use the Landing Craft Utility (LCU) or the Landing Craft Air Cushioned (LCAC) vehicle, a hovercraft.


The two vessels are vastly different, yet they both provide the backbone of missions ranging from humanitarian relief to a full-blown beach invasion. We got up-close and personal with both crafts and the units that operate them.

The LCAC Hovercraft

At nearly 90 feet long the LCAC is a massive hovercraft whose operator must peg himself by four limbs to a yoke, and two foot rudders. Operating in six dimensions, like a helicopter pilot, the enlisted LCAC Craftmaster careens across water and land like an air-hockey puck.

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Robert Johnson for Business Insider


The LCU is old-school in every sense, but its navigation and electronics gear are continually upgraded. These were the boats dropping off Vietnam draftees on the shores on the Han river in the early 1970s.


LCUs drop off 125 tons of cargo and hit the beach at about 14 mph, while the LCAC slides in at more than 46 mph carrying up to 75 tons.

It's no wonder the two units, which are right next door to each other at the joint Expeditionary Base in Little Creek-Fort Story, have a bit of a heated rivalry based off Aesop's Fable number 226: The Tortoise and The Hare.

LCU Craftmaster Chief Petty Officer Bright of LCU Unit 2, told Business Insider,"It may take us a bit longer to get there compared to the LCACs, but you know what happened to the Hare. Slow and easy, is best."

Business Insider visited both units in early July and went out on the water with an LCAC team over Norfolk Bay. Here's what the day was like and how the U.S. military delivers its troops and goods onto shores across the world.