SAN FRANCISCO — A Navy hovercraft landed on a San Francisco beach for the first time Wednesday to demonstrate the military's ability to respond to disasters such as a massive earthquake.
As spectators lined Ocean Beach to snap photos and watch, the amphibious vehicle hit the shore around 10:15 a.m. to help kick off this year's San Francisco Fleet Week. It left in a cloud of sand and ocean spray about 45 minutes later and returned to its mother ship, the USS Makin Island.
The Navy was showcasing the hovercraft, also known as a Landing Craft Air Cushion or LCAC, and its mobile surgical center to city emergency management officials as well as San Francisco Mayor Ed Lee.
Officials say the LCAC can deliver supplies, equipment and personnel to San Francisco and other U.S. cities if a major earthquake or other disaster takes out roads, bridges and other transportation infrastructure.
The hovercraft has been used to respond to humanitarian crises such as Hurricane Katrina in 2005 and the 2010 earthquake in Haiti.
"The LCAC gives us the ability to bypass the obstacles of broken bridges and overpasses and all those other network and roadway problems," said Maj. Gen. Melvin Spiese, who heads the 1st Marine Expeditionary Brigade.
City emergency management officials and medical providers had a chance to check out the Shock Trauma Platoon, a group of medical tents set up in a parking lot next to Ocean Beach.
"It's basically a mobile surgery center that we can set up anywhere in the world in about an hour," said Lt. Garth Langley, a spokesman for the Marines.
Fleet Week continues through this weekend with popular events such as the Parade of Ships and the Blue Angels air show.