Marine Corps Looks to the Past for Future Connectors

By Valerie Insinna
Because the Marine Corps’ initial amphibious combat vehicle will not have a sea skimming, high water-speed capability, it has become more important than ever for the service to find low-cost, innovative ways to bring troops and equipment ashore.

The sea services are mulling over technologies presented at a connector summit held last March, where industry, government and academia discussed possibilities, said Jim Strock, director of the Marine Corps’ seabasing integration division.

“These are capabilities potentially hiding in plain sight. A lot of this is ‘Back to the Future,’” he told the audience in November at NDIA’s expeditionary warfare conference.

One option is the high-speed assault and interdiction craft, or HAVIC, which was developed in the mid-1980s and tested in 1988, Strock said. HAVIC is a water jet powered sled prototype with a 20-knot speed and 80-mile range.

“It was designed where you could put a fighting vehicle, in this case a [light armored vehicle] inside. The operator of the LAV hooks up the controls and drives himself to shore,” he said. Originally, the shore crew would have had to send HAVIC back to the ship, but automation technologies have matured so that the craft may be able to direct itself.

The original HAVIC prototype was destroyed when the Navy decided not to move forward with procuring it, Strock said.

“We have been drinking beer out of this thing since about 1993 when it was scrapped,” he said. Fortunately, the patent holder attended the connector summit and has all of the necessary design information to make more of the craft if needed.

Another possible option is the ultra heavy amphibious connector under development by the Office of Naval Research, he said. ONR has built and tested a quarter-scale prototype that can carry a Humvee.

“If it is decided to develop a full-scale model, the theory is it can carry three tanks at 20 knots,” he said.

Revitalizing old connectors is also vital to future missions, Strock added.

Textron in November began fabricating the Navy’s ship-to-shore connector, a replacement for the landing craft air cushions currently used to ferry troops and equipment from sea to land, according to Naval Sea Systems Command. The hovercraft will be able to carry a 74-ton payload at speeds of more than 35 knots.

The Navy has a program of record for 72 SSCs. Launching a wheeled or amphibious assault vehicle off the connector was not a requirement, but the service will likely explore whether the equipment is capable of doing so, Strock said.

Topics: Land Forces, Land Forces

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