PANAMA CITY BEACH, Fla (WMBB)– In 1994, the U.S. Navy Landing Craft Air Cushion 66 docked in Saint Andrew’s Bay for the first time. After decades of serving the Panama City Naval Warfare Center, the vessel is retiring.
Commonly referred to as an LCAC, the LCAC 66 has served it’s country for 25 years.
The LCAC is designed to function in extreme conditions–transporting U.S. Marines by land and water.
“It’s designed to basically have a sustained over the horizon assault carrying mainly marines and their equipment…tanks, humvee’s, AAV’s, so they can do an amphibious assault,” said Mitch Martin, LCAC Craft Master.
There are only 69 active cushions throughout the U.S. And Japan. The big vessel is operated by only five people.
“We have a five man completely enlisted crew, it is very unique to the navy itself. We are one of the only few programs enlisted. I’ve got four other personnel on board…an engineer, a navigator, a deck mechanic, and a load master,”said Joshua Pearsall, U.S. Navy Hovercraft Master.
Currently, the LCAC 66 is used for research and testing. But, the vessel is being disassembled due to a lack of funding and changing technology.
“It’s a funding thing, we got new boats coming in, we got a lot of assets that are gonna be switching over from the legacy LCAC to the LCAC 100 series boats. There was really no need for this,” said Martin.
The navy began disassembling the vessel nearly 8 months ago.
“LCAC 66 will really just be parted out and it’ll be scrapped. Or it could potentially end up being a reef. We aren’t really sure where it’s going after it’s demilitarized. They’re just in the process of chopping it up right now,” said Pearsall.
Crews will continue to disassemble the vessel at the Panama City Naval Warfare Center through September.