by Jon Persson
(Watch two videos of LCAC-71 Storming the Beach here: http://www.youtube.com/user/TheResidentNews?feature=watch)
It’s D-Day..of a different kind.
It’s a sunny Friday, July 6, at 1600 hours and LCAC 71 storms the Hole-In-The-Wall Beach at McCook Point Park, in Niantic.
This is a well orchestrated operation of the the Navy Dock Landing Ship USS Carter Hall launching the Landing Craft Air Cushion from an offshore moored position. Spectators line the shore, covering the park’s expansive grassy hillside vista and along the rocky embankments which surround much of the park.
As the opening event of OpSail 2012CT, the Carter Hall and her LCAC bring to Niantic’s beach an event otherwise limited to distant viewing of the fleet of ships anchored off Niantic Harbor. The fleet, intermixed with private pleasure craft, includes a number of schooners, two Coast Guard vessels, the Coast Guard barque Eagle, and the Carter Hall, which at 609 feet dominates the horizon with her gray profile.
Soon, the LCAC can be seen, a giant spume of spray blasting into the air along her port side, curving over the vessel as it runs towards the beach. LCAC 71 makes two mock assaults on Hole-In-The-Wall Beach, the first a straight-on landing which sees the vessel completely ashore, her inflatable hull ring immediately deflated. A number of uniformed personnel disembark, and a contingent of dignitaries board for a pre-announced LCAC landing.
The second landing, at higher speed than the first, ends with a dramatic side-slip landing which brings the LCAC to rest high and dry and artfully turned sideways. The demonstration is completed with the deployment of a Humvee and a combat truck.
At the press conference which follows, Captain Timothy Spratto, Commodore of Amphibious Squadron Six, illustrates just how impressive the LCAC force is: “Seventy-two LCACs in the Navy inventory,” he says, each capable of “carrying up to 72 tons at speeds up to 40 knots with a range of 200 miles.” Their range gives them an “over the horizon” capability, allowing a greater element of surprise. They can deploy a squad of marines, trucks, even an M1A1 main battle tank. The USS Carter Hall is the tenth vessel of her kind, which carry a crew of 500 Navy and Marine personnel in “the Blue-Green team.”