The navy is refurbishing and upgrading its twenty year old LCAC hovercraft. The four gas turbine engines on each LCAC are being upgraded to increase their power about ten percent, and reduce fuel consumption. Each of the large amphibious ships has four LCACs, which average 5-6 hours use a month. The five man crews get flight play. The makes the LCACs the only navy aircraft that are commanded by an enlisted man (a chief petty officer.) In addition to the LCAC commander, there's a mechanic, navigator, loadmaster and engineer.
The upgrade will include new structural components as needed, as well as new electronics. The more powerful engines will increase the carrying capacity to 65 tons, making it easier to carry an M-1 tank. LCAC's are 81 feet long and 43 feet wide and carry two .50 caliber machine-gun for protection. The LCACs are launched as far as 80 kilometers off shore, and move at up to 70 kilometers an hour. Max range is about 500 kilometers (with a full load, at 60 kilometers an hour.)
Since only about 15 percent of the world's coastline can be used by older amphibious craft, the LCACs make amphibious operations possible on some 80 percent of the world's coastline. The makes it a lot more difficult to defend against an American amphibious attack. During the recent Iraq campaign, 29 LCACs were used. Each 150 ton LCAC cost $22 million.