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New NSWC Panama City Depot Extends Navy Dollars and Hovercraft Lifespan

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New NSWC Panama City Depot Extends Navy Dollars and Hovercraft Lifespan

Naval Surface Warfare Center Panama City Division (NSWC PCD) recently created a hovercraft parts depot for the U.S. Navy fleet in Panama City, Florida, that is expected to save hundreds of thousands of dollars and will extend the craft’s service life by years.

Originally, the Landing Craft Air Cushion (LCAC) was designed for a 20-year service life. In the mid-2000s, the Navy began a Service Life Extension Program (SLEP) to add 10 additional years of service life. Not only did SLEP modernize the LCACs with state-of-the-art C4N (command, control, communications, computers, and navigation) systems, upgraded engines, a new deep skirt (that reduces drag and craft weight), hull repairs and larger fuel tanks, it also addressed aging issues with the propulsion system equipment.

NSWC Panama City, the In-Service Engineering Agent for the LCAC, pursued development for all types of repairs and upgrades. The propeller shrouds, in particular, received several major upgrades. The LCAC propeller shroud’s original equipment manufacturer (OEM) ceased production shortly before LCAC production ended, which was nearly a decade before the LCAC SLEP began.

The OEM had provided upgrades to the design throughout the life of the craft; however, today that OEM is limited to building new stators, which are very expensive and have an extremely long lead time. It was apparent that there was a need to reduce these costs and speed up the repairs as there simply was not enough money to replace all of the propeller shrouds currently in the Fleet.

The LCAC Program Office directed NSWC PCD to stand up an overhaul organization to conduct Depot-level repairs on LCAC propeller shrouds and to match the demand from the Fleet.

Today, NSWC PCD provides these shrouds to the Fleet in support of the fixed price contract maintenance on a schedule that prevents delay, disruption and additional costs. Over the last couple of years, that has meant an average of one ready-for-issue propeller shroud per month.

According to NSWC PCD Project Lead Engineer Glenn Campbell, “The Depot work is accomplished by highly skilled technicians, a government service-defense contract partner team, comprised of our folks here at NSWC Panama City, Gryphon Technologies, ITA International and HubzoneHQ, which complete this work.”

These repairs are done in support of all LCAC fleet maintenance availabilities where a POT&I (pre-overhaul test and inspection) finds that the propeller shroud requires upgrades or repairs that are beyond the capabilities of the intermediate maintenance organization at the assault craft units (ACUs) or the maintenance contractors at the ACUs.

The shrouds are removed from the LCAC at their operational units and trucked to Panama City, where each will receive reworked stators (five struts that support the propeller), stator mounts, aft foundation fittings, and any other repairs/upgrades as required.

The NSWC PCD Depot now has the ability to rework one shroud per month. NAVSUP supports the propeller shroud stators, and the Depot is the designated overhaul point (DOP).

“If the Fleet wants to replace a stator, they order one from the Navy Supply System, and we supply the repaired stators to NAVSUP. A brand new stator can cost approximately $60-70K and require 24-36 months to acquire. A rebuilt stator from the Panama City Depot is less than a third of that cost and can now be repaired in a matter of weeks,” Campbell said.

In addition to supplying shrouds for SLEP LCACs, which concludes in 2016-2017, NSWC PCD also provides shrouds for Fleet Modernization Program efforts and now Post-SLEP Extension (PSE) maintenance availabilities.

Campbell said this is the next challenge “because SLEP LCACs are approaching the end of that 10-year life extension and will be required to last another five years until replaced by the next generation craft, the Ship to Shore Connector (LCAC-100).”

As the LCAC-1 class are retired and replaced by LCAC-100, shrouds will likely be removed, repaired and preserved. The Panama City Depot work will continue for at least the next five years and probably longer in order to meet U.S. Fleet demand and also to support a foreign military sales effort with the Japanese Maritime Self Defense Force, which operates six LCACs purchased in the mid-1990s.

To learn more about NSCW Panama City Division and the work it does, visit http://www.navsea.navy.mil/Home/Warfare-Centers/NSWC-Panama-City/.

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