Landing craft

From Academic Kids

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Landing craft Rapière

A landing craft is a type of boat used to convey infantry and vehicles on to a shore during an assault from sea to land. Most renowned are the amphibious mechanized assault landing craft used to storm the beaches of Normandy during WWII.

Landing Craft are ships or smaller vessels whose primary purpose is to place elements of an army on an (enemy held) beach.

In the days of sail the normal ship's boats were used, but the introduction of steamships led to the provision of boats of lesser capacity forcing the creation of specialist designs for landing purposes.

The High Summer of the landing craft was the latter half of WWII when a large number of different designs were produced in large quantities by the United Kingdom and USA.

Because of the need to run up onto a suitable beach they were flat-bottomed, and many designs had a flat front rather than a normal bow. This tended to make them very difficult to control and very uncomfortable in rough seas.

The control point (bridge was far too fancy a description for the facilities of the LCA and DUKW) was normally situated at the extreme rear of the vessel as were the engines.

In all cases they tended to be known by an acronym derived from the official name rather than the full title.



The smallest landing craft were the US-designed DUKW, basically an amphibious truck, and the Landing Vehicle Tracked, an amphibious armoured personnel carrier. These were operated by Army personnel, not naval crews. They had a capacity of about 3 tons.

Then came the Landing Craft Assault (LCA) small craft intended to be transported around by larger vessels then lowered into the water off the target beach. Typically they could carry 30 fully-armed soldiers. The LCA was capable of carrying one small tank or 100 troops.

None of the above was capable of making a voyage longer than about 6 hours, mainly through fuel limitations.

LCI(L) 196 and a DUKW during the Invasion of Sicily 1943 (World War II)
LCI(L) 196 and a DUKW during the Invasion of Sicily 1943 (World War II)
Then came the Landing Craft Infantry (LCI), capable of making serious voyages under its own power (some were sailed directly from the United Kingdom to take part in the Operation Torch landings, and US Navy LCIs island-hopped across the Pacific). LCIs were about 160 feet long and 23 feet wide and carried around 250 troops. There were several sub-types of the craft, with the LCI(L) (large) infantry carrier dominating; but LCIs also served as rocket (LCI(R)) and mortar (M), and gunboat (G) platforms, as well as as a flotilla flagship (FF). While still intended to run up on the beach, these tended to have a normal type bow with stepped ramps each side for the troops to disembark. The LCI was re-classified Landing Ship Infantry (LSI) in 1949.

Of a similar size was the Landing Craft Tank, which could carry up to 4 Tanks or other vehicles. These had a flat front which formed a ramp which was dropped for the vehicles to get ashore. Behind the ramp was an open space known as the Tank Deck.

The next step was the Landing Ship Tank. This carried rather more vehicles than the LCT (20 in the US-built versions) and had normal looking bows, although the bows were actually formed by doors which were opened for the unloading ramp to drop. Fully loaded, these displaced more than 3,000 tons, rather more than most Royal Navy destroyers of the period.

Finally there was the Landing Ship Dock, which had a large open compartment at the back. Opening a stern door and flooding special compartments allowed this area to be open to the sea and LCI-sized vessels could enter or leave.

Initial British nomenclature had the type names differently hence leading to names such as Assault Landing Craft, Infantry Landing Craft and Tank Landing Craft.

Due to their rather small size the majority were not given names and were simply given serial numbers, e.g. LCT 304. The LSDs were an exception to this being much the same size as a small cruiser. Three British-built LSTs were named as well, HM Ships Boxer, Bruiser and Thruster which were somewhat larger than the US design; they also had proper funnels.


DUKWs, LCAs and LCMs had no fixed armament, but there were ways for troops on board to use their own weapons.

LCIs and LCTs had a 20mm Oerlikon each side of the bridge structure. LSTs had a somewhat heavier armament.

Special purpose craft

Some LCTs were converted for special purposes.

Landing Craft Flak

The Landing Craft Flak (LCF) was intended to give anti-aircraft support to the landing. They were first used in the Dieppe Raid early in 1942. The ramp was welded shut, and a deck built on top of the Tank deck.

They were equipped with 8 20mm Oerlikons and four pom-poms and had a crew of 60. Royal Navy examples had mixed crews, with the operation of the craft being the responsibility of RN crew and the manning of the guns being done by Royal Marines. They carried two naval officers and two marine officers.

Landing Craft Gun

The Landing Craft Gun (LCG) was similar and was intended to give supporting fire to the landing. Apart from the Oerlikons as per a normal LCT they had a couple of 4.7 inch destroyer guns. Crewing was similar to the LCF. LCGs played a very important part in the Walcheren operation in October 1944.

Landing Craft Rocket

Finally there was the Landing Craft Rocket, known as the LCT(R) rather than LCR.

This had a large set of launchers for 60-lb rockets mounted on the covered-over tank deck. The full set of launchers was 'in excess of' 1,000 and reloads to the tune of 5,000 rockets were kept below. The firepower was claimed to be equivalent to 80 light cruisers or 200 destroyers.

The method of operation was to anchor off the target beach, pointing towards the shore. The distance to the shore was then measured by radar and the elevation of the launchers set accordingly. The crew then vanished below (apart from the commanding officer who retreated to a special cubby hole to control things) and the launch was then set off electrically. The launch could comprise the whole lot or individual ranks of rockets.

A full reload was a very labour-intensive operation and at least one LCT(R) went along side a cruiser and got a working party from the larger ship to assist in the process.

Amphibious mechanized utility and landing craft

The mechanized utility and landing craft, more commonly known as an amphibious landing craft or boat. This was the kind used during the second world war, and while the mechanized landing crafts of today are similar in construction, a lot of improvements have been made. Normally using diesel engines, the best amphibious landing boats (such as the LCM 8 of the US Navy) are capable of a military lift of 183 metric tons at a speed of 22 km/h, carrying even heavy equipment like M1 Abrams tanks with little trouble. Amphibious landing craft normally mount several machine guns or similar weapons for the defense of troops and/or vehicle crews inside.

Landing Craft Air Cushion (LCAC)

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The air cushioned landing craft, or fully amphibious landing craft; a more modern variation on the amphibious landing boat. These craft are based on small to mid sized multi-purpose hovercraft, also known as 'over the beach' ('OTB') craft. These allows troops and material to access more than 70% of the worlds coastline, while only approximately 15% of that coastline is available to conventional landing craft. Typical barriers to conventional landing craft are soft sandy beaches, marshes, swampland, and loose surfaces. Air cushion technology has vastly increased the landing capability of the craft, providing greater speed and flexibility over traditional landing craft.

Like the mechanized landing craft, they are usually equipped with mounted machine guns, although they also support grenade launchers and heavy weapons.

These vehicles are commonly used in the United States Navy, which first received them in 1984, and some other modern fighting forces, such as the United Kingdom's Royal Navy. Units likely to use these vessels include special forces such as the US Navy Seals, Green Berets and Delta Force and the UK's SAS and SBS, as well as elite frontline troops such as the United States Marine Corps and the UK Royal Marines.

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