The Navy Has A High-Tech Hovercraft, And It Is Spectacular [PHOTOS]


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

The LCAC is an update on the Landing Craft Utility (LCU), an earlier amphibious transport system. The two systems are vastly different - but they're both capable of serving as the backbone for missions ranging from humanitarian relief to a full-blown beach invasion.

Business Insider got up-close and personal with both crafts and the units that operate them.

The LCAC Hovercraft

The LCAC is a 90-foot hovercraft. It's not easy to drive. The operator has to yoke all four limbs into place, while concentrating on two separate foot-operated rudders. The LCAF Craftsman has the same challenge as a helicopter pilot - the vessel effectively operates in six dimensions, careening across water and land like a giant 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 American soldiers on the shores on the Han River in Vietnam in the early 1970s.

LCUs can discharge 125 tons of cargo and hit the beach at about 14 miles per hour. The LCAC slides in at more than 46 miles per hour, and can carry 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 in Norfolk, VA, have a bit of a heated rivalry. One LCU Craftsman likened it to Aesop's fable about the tortoise and the hare.

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, 2013, 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 around the world.