Since the days of ancient warfare, the amphibious assault has been a perilous, and ultra-important, operation in the military sphere. In modern times, the operation has expanded considerably, moving beyond simple ship-to-shore ferrying of infantry. Today, amphibious assault craft are charged with moving man, machine and supplies from offshore points to the beaches ahead in the hopes of quickly, and efficiently, establishing the beachhead. Socarenam of France was charged with construction of four such boats - the 285 ton "Engin de Debarquement Amphibie Rapide" (EDA-R) - for the French Navy intended to succeed the service's aging line of "Chalands de Debarquement d'Infanterie et de Chars" 406 ton boats.
Design work began in 2000 but did not achieve full steam until 2008. A catamaran hull was selected to allow for good deep water treading and shallow operation - its categorization became Roll-On/Roll-Off Catamaran Landing Craft, or "L-CAT". Testing ensued with heavy mission-type loads into 2010 and the types were officially introduced for service with the French navy in 2011.
The boats are specifically designed to operate with/from the French Navy's Mistral-class amphibious assault ships - bringing whole systems, combat tanks, armored vehicles, war supplies, cargo loads and infantry to the shoreline. This includes a compete cavalry platoon with three Main Battle Tanks (MBTs) and three wheeled light-armored vehicles or similar. Up to 80 tons of goods can be carried across 400 nautical miles at speeds reaching 30 knots. The crew complement numbers eight and self-defense armament carried is comprised of 2 x 12.7mm Heavy Machine Guns (HMGs) and 2 x 7.62mm Medium Machine Guns (MMGs).
Dimensions of the boat include a length of 30 meters, a beam of 12.8 meters and a draught of 2.5 meters - the latter quality critical to shoreline capability.
Propulsion power to the vessel is from 4 x MTU Friedrichshafen 12V2000 M92 diesel engines developing over 1,600 horsepower each. Fine adjustments are made by management of 4 x Wartsila pump-jets. Its control and handling are said to be as smooth and fine as competing air-cushioned landing craft used elsewhere.
The Egyptian Navy had ordered a pair of EDA-R boats from France, which were built, but never delivered. The United States Army is said to be considering the L-CAT for its own use - though modified to suit the service's exacting requirements.