US Navy Receives First of 10 Joint High Speed Vessels USNS Spearhead

“USNS Spearhead”, the first of 10 US Navy Joint High Speed Vessels (JHSV) designed for rapid intra-theater transport of troops and military equipment, was christened on Saturday September 17, 2011 during a ceremony at Austal’s USA shipyard in Mobile, Alabama.

The Military Sealift Command (MSC) will own and operate “Spearhead” and the six other JHSVs that are under contract to be built for the US Navy. “Spearhead” will be crewed by 22 civil service mariners working for MSC who will operate, navigate and maintain the ship.

Spearhead” will change the game – transforming the normally behind-the-scenes exercise of supporting the military’s logistical requirements into something far more exciting,” said Austal USA President and Chief Operating Officer, Joe Rella, during his address to over a thousand attendees, including leaders from the military services, Congress and Austal employees. Alabama Senator Jeff Sessions was the ceremony’s principal speaker.

Retired Army Chief Warrant Officer, Kenneth Wahlman, is the ship’s sponsor. His daughter Catherine, a staff sergeant in the Army Reserve Officer Training Corps at Virginia Tech University, broke the traditional bottle of champagne across the bow to formally christen the ship.

The 103 metre aluminum catamarans are designed to be fast, flexible and maneuverable even in shallow waters, making them ideal for transporting troops and equipment quickly within a theater of operations.

The ship has the ability to support operations of all sorts, supporting the warfighter through traditional logistics missions, humanitarian support projects, disaster response or by supporting maritime law enforcement activities. “We can only imagine the missions that “Spearhead” will be uniquely suited for and called upon to support,” said Mr Rella. “Realising this ship’s potential is now the task of Captain Douglas Casavant and his crew. We envy their opportunity and everyone here at Austal wishes the Captain and crew of “Spearhead” all the very best.”

The JHSVs are capable of transporting 600 short tons of military troops, vehicles, supplies and equipment 1,200 nautical miles at an average speed of 35 knots and can operate in shallow-draft, austere ports and waterways, providing U.S. forces added mobility and flexibility. The JHSV aviation flight decks can support day and night flight operations. Each JHSV also has sleeping accommodations for up to 146 personnel and airline-style seating for up to 312.

After the ceremony, Mr Rella remarked, “We may be celebrating now, but we are not resting,” gesturing to the assembly bay recently vacated by the “USNS Spearhead”. In the bay, underneath a ceremonial U.S. flag, the first modules of JHSV 2, the future “Vigilant”, are already being pieced together to form the second JHSV.

Austal is preparing to launch the second Independence-variant Littoral Combat Ship Class, “Coronado” (LCS 4). Austal is also under contract to build 7 JHSVs, with “Vigilant” (JHSV 2) construction underway.

For the LCS and JHSV programs, Austal is teamed with General Dynamics Advanced Information Systems, a business unit of General Dynamics. As the ship systems integrator, General Dymanics is responsible for the design, integration and testing of the ship’s electronic systems including the combat system, networks, and seaframe control. General Dynamics’ proven open architecture approach provides affordable capabilities to the fleet quickly and efficiently.

These two contracts will require Austal to more than double its Mobile, Alabama workforce to approximately 3,800 employees in order to fulfil contract requirements. “With almost ten percent of these workers expected to reside in the neighbouring states of Florida and Mississippi, we are proud that Austal is an engine of regional growth for the Gulf,” concluded Mr Rella.

Source: austal, September 20, 2011;

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Posted on September 20, 2011