Yokose LCAC station a step closer to reality
SASEBO NAVAL BASE, Japan — A new $91 million Landing Craft Air Cushioned station moved a step closer to reality this week when Japan’s Defense Facilities Administration Bureau reported that the project presented no environmental concerns that would impede construction.
An environmental assessment took place at the Yokose Fuel Depot in Saikai Town, a Fukuoka bureau spokesman said Thursday. Yokose has been selected as a new “laydown station” for LCACs and personnel from Assault Craft Unit 5, Sasebo Detachment.
The six LCACs and sailors of ACU 5 currently use the 1.4-acre Sakibe Laydown Station three miles south and slightly east of the base. The facility began operations in 1994.
During the years since, Sakibe facilities fell into serious disrepair. However, renovations and maintenance carried out the past two years makes the facility usable until the 30-acre Yokose Laydown Station, designed to be five times larger, is completed between 2011 and 2014.
DFAB conducted tests in 13 categories, including air pollution, noise pollution, impact of vibrations from the powerful LCACs and effects on fish, land animals and plants. The tests are based on details contained in Nagasaki prefecture’s environmental assessment ordinance, the spokesman said Thursday.
The overall conclusion: “Considerations for conserving the environment are deemed adequate,” and DFAB determined that the construction should proceed, he explained. The acceptable testing of the environmental benchmarks means construction, expected to last at least seven years, should begin by the end of this year.
A base official, asked Friday about the environmental impact test results, said the command appreciates the “great support and understanding provided by the government of Japan” for base facilities and operations.
“We believe the completion of Yokose LCAC Laydown Station is of mutual benefit to both Sasebo and Fleet Activities, Sasebo,” said Charles T. Howard, a base spokesman. “The DFAB’s environmental assessment result is one of many positive indications that the future Yokose LCAC Station project is surely moving forward.”
Starting shortly after Sakibe was established, residents near the site expressed concern about the cacophonous roar of the crafts’ turbine-like engines. The noise issue prompted a two-year decibel study that ended in 1997 as the compiled data indicated that Sakibe should be closed primarily because it is too small to absorb the noise pollution when LCACs operate.
Also in 1997, five sites were selected as alternate homes for ACU 5 and its high-tech LCACs, which, rather than motoring through the sea, travel slightly above it on an air cushion contained by a thick rubber “skirt.”
Officials selected Yokose because the land is wide enough for the facility and the natural surroundings should help buffer their noise. The new laydown station also is to have hangars for LCAC storage and repair, as opposed to Sakibe’s open-air space. Additionally, new billeting and administrative buildings will be constructed.
The LCACs, also known as hovercrafts, are designed to transport personnel, weapons and equipment from ship to shore and across beaches. They can transport M-1 tanks at high speeds, meaning more forces can reach the shore in less time.
The air cushion allows an LCAC to travel across 70 percent of the world’s beaches, Navy fact files state, while conventional craft can land on just 15 percent to 20 percent.
The DFAB spokesman noted that the environmental assessment results were presented to the Sasebo and Saikai town mayors, as well as the Nagasaki prefecture governor, on Feb. 29.
The assessment findings can be viewed at the Sasebo City Complex through March 29, he added.