The venerable LCM-8 “Mike” boat is well known to military harbormasters and US Army logistics teams. Chugging at a sedate 12 knots with no load — 8 knots or less when fully loaded — the craft with bow ramps can drop right onto a beach and perform a myriad of unglamorous but necessary tasks.
But the Army’s Mikes, which are from the late 1950s and 1960s, are worn out and in need of replacement. And one of the contenders is the L-Cat, a French-designed, multipurpose craft that can zip across the water at 30 knots — almost unheard of for a landing craft.
The L-Cat gets it speed from an unusual configuration. It’s essentially a twin-hulled landing craft with a vehicle deck in the middle that can be lowered to the water’s edge for direct access onto shore, then raised to turn the vessel into a high-speed catamaran.
The concept was developed by CNIM, a French firm based near Toulon. The company built one L-Cat prototype followed by four units for the French Navy. The craft have been tested on the US Navy’s amphibious assault ship Wasp and landing transport dock San Jacinto.
Now, CNIM, partnering with the Italian shipbuilder Fincantieri, is offering the craft to the US Army.
“We think this is a good choice for the US,” said Philippe Neri of CNIM at the Surface Navy Association’s annual symposium just outside Washington.