Creare’s skills in turbomachinery development are being leveraged by the US Navy to improve the next generation of hovercraft.
The Navy uses air cushion vehicles to quickly transport troops and equipment from larger transport ships to land. The Ship to Shore Connector (SSC) is the evolutionary replacement for the existing fleet of Landing Craft Air Cushion (LCAC) vehicles, which are nearing the end of their service life. The SSC provides increased performance to handle current and future missions, including improvements that increase the craft availability and reduce total ownership cost. Fabrication of the first nine SSCs began in late 2014. These will be delivered in 2017 and achieve initial operating capability in 2020.
According to the Navy, “The SSC program will significantly enhance the Navy and Marine Corps team’s capability to execute a broad spectrum of missions well into the 21st century, from humanitarian assistance and disaster response to multidimensional amphibious assault. LCACs/SSCs are used primarily to haul vehicles, heavy equipment, and supplies through varied environmental conditions from amphibious ships to over the beach.”
Four gas turbine engines are used to power each Ship-to-Shore Connector. The SSC utilizes a lift fan system to discharge air into the craft’s skirt and bow thrusters to lift the hovercraft under normal operation.
Navy Seeks Improved Performance and Lower Costs
The current SSC lift fans meet craft performance requirements, but the Navy is seeking an advanced lift fan design that will provide improved fan efficiency, lower noise, and reduced life cycle cost. Creare successfully carried out an SBIR Phase I project and has recently been awarded Phase II funding from the Naval Surface Warfare Center to continue development of an advanced lift fan impeller.
Creare is harnessing the power of high-fidelity computational fluid dynamics (CFD) and structural finite element analysis (FEA) models to maximize aerodynamic efficiency while meeting the structural requirements. We have teamed with an industry-leading Naval Systems manufacturing partner to evaluate the feasibility and cost of fabricating advanced blade geometries. In Phase I, we demonstrated the improved performance and cost effectiveness of our design. The main goal of Phase II is to fabricate, assemble and test a full-scale advanced lift fan impeller.
Creare’s advanced lift fan design and low-cost manufacturing approach improves mission capabilities and reduces the operational cost of the SSC. The design approach is applicable to improving hovercraft lift fans in the private sector and also has applications for the development of low-noise and high-efficiency industrial blowers.