Photo credit © U.S. Naval Forces Southern & U.S. Fourth Fleet
At a cost of less than 200 million dollars per ship, the US Navy is buying a number of what are in effect high speed ferries to operate with the fleet for carrying cargo and troops. The first JHSV is participating in an exercise in Latin America. According to a USN story published on 5/30/14:
Military Sealift Command joint high-speed vessel USNS Spearhead (JHSV 1) departed Mayport to begin Southern Partnership Station 2014 (SPS-JHSV 14) May 29 in the U.S. 4th Fleet area of operations to conduct subject matter expert exchanges and partner building relationships from May 29 – Oct 9.
Supporting the U.S. Maritime Strategy, SPS-JHSV 14 will focus on enhancing cooperative partnerships with regional maritime services and improving operational readiness for all participating services.
Prior to departing Mayport, Rear Adm. George Ballance, commander, U.S. Naval Forces Southern Command/U.S. 4th Fleet, spoke to the SPS-JHSV 14 team about the upcoming mission, his expectations, and developing relationships with partner nations.
“Your missions ashore, in theater, and at sea on Spearhead support all of our lines of operation: maritime security operations, security cooperation, and contingency operations,” said Ballance.
“Every Sailor, Marine, Soldier, Airman, mariner, and civilian is an ambassador,” said Ballance. “Your actions and appearance represent the United States, the U.S. Navy, U.S. Southern Command and U.S. Fourth Fleet.”
While Spearhead was pierside at Joint Expeditionary Base Little Creek, Va. prior to departing to Mayport, U.S. Marine Corps Brig. Gen. David Coffman, commanding general of U.S. Marine Corps Forces South came aboard to talk to U.S. Marines coming from detachments across the U.S. attached to the SPS-JHSV 14 mission.
“There are two groups of people in this world, good guys and bad guys, and we continue to work with the good guys to make them better because they want the same things you want,” said Coffman.
SPS-JHSV 14 will also provide the opportunity for the U.S. and its allies across Central and South America to operate in the multinational environment, refine coordination and improve interoperability, and demonstrates flexibility.
The focal point for assigned units will be to locally identify needs such as medical readiness, operational risk management, port security, non-commissioned officer professional development, motor maintenance, and patrol craft operations.
For U.S. Marines Lance Cpl. Michael Bostic from Dublin, Ga., currently stationed at Head Quarters Battalion, Second Marine Division out of Camp Lejeune, N.C., is leaving on his first deployment.
“I am excited to work alongside our allies, see new places and experience their culture,” said Bostic.
Intelligence Specialist 3rd Class (SW) Bryan Bowser, a native from Friendsville, Md., already completed a prior deployment on the Spearhead, and volunteered to go again.
“This is a unique environment to work in. I like the diverse group of people that come from all services and the mission this ship does,” said Bowser.
The ship is scheduled to return to Mayport at the completion of the scheduled mission Oct.9.
SPS-JHSV 14 is a U.S. Navy deployment focused on subject matter expert exchanges with partner nation militaries and security forces.
And this April 29, 2014 Stars and Stripes story looks at the general role for this new ship:
ABOARD THE USNS SPEARHEAD IN LAGOS, NIGERIA — The engines rumbled to life, the impellers clutched in and this 2,500-ton catamaran slid away neatly from its pier.
Spearhead is not your typical Navy ship. First in a new class of high-speed, highly maneuverable vessels designed to move troops and cargo quickly, it has a light build, a shallow draft and a large mission bay that make it attractive for a variety of missions, something the Navy has explored over the past four months of the ship’s maiden deployment.
In Ghana, the ship hosted a boarding party targeting illegal fishing vessels. It went pierside in Lagos to kick off an annual exercise with African nations. And in Cameroon it served as a training space for special operators.
“I think it provides a very flexible option across the spectrum of operations, and we’ve just started to tap that potential,” said Capt. John Rinko, commander of the logistics task force for U.S. Naval Forces Europe-Africa.
The concept of a cargo catamaran was first validated by the Royal Australian Navy, when its high-speed experimental vessel, the Jarvis Bay, was used to ferry more than 20,000 peacekeepers to East Timor starting in 1999. The Navy leased a similar catamaran, the Swift, for nearly a decade ending in 2013, using it as transport for Marines and for U.S. trainers going to Africa and South America.
With Spearhead, the Navy is preparing a wider role for catamarans across theaters. The ship is the first of 10 Joint High Speed Vessels purchased by the service and operated by its Military Sealift Command, which handles the service’s support and sealift vessels. Three have been delivered, and a fourth has been christened. The contract price is $160 million per ship.
Created to ferry ground troops and special operators quickly between shores, Spearhead is built of lightweight aluminum and driven by a jet-propulsion system.
The ship is fast for a vessel of its size, reaching 35 knots (about 40 mph, the speed of a small boat). It has a mission bay of 20,000 square feet, a ramp that can hold 100 tons — enough for a fully loaded tank — and a passenger room with more than 300 reclining airline-style seats, overhead TVs and racks for weapons and equipment.
The ship arrives as the Navy talks increasingly of modularity, or the ability to configure a single ship for different missions. It also comes as high demand for warships in places like the Pacific limit availability in other theaters.
That’s especially true in regions such as this one, the Gulf of Guinea, where piracy and illegal fishing are ongoing problems, and where local forces often lack the training or resources to enforce their maritime boundaries.
The U.S. naval command for Africa runs training and regular exercises in the area, but it has lacked a dedicated ship since SWIFT’s departure, relying on a Dutch vessel for training with several countries last fall.
Spearhead or one of its follow-on vessels will likely fill that role in the future. For the current deployment, Spearhead participated in two African exercises, as well as the boarding piece in Ghana. It visited ports in Senegal, Ghana and Gabon, and after a brief return to Norfolk, Va., it will head to South American waters for a similar tour.
The Navy hasn’t said where it plans to station the ships, and Rinko said possible ports are still being evaluated.
The JHSV represents a departure for Military Sealift Command, whose vessels are typically mission-specific and include oil tankers and hospital ships. Spearhead has a crew of 26 mariners, all of whom juggle multiple duties (the ship was designed for a military crew of 46).
“We’re working with groups that we don’t always work with,” Capt. Douglas Casavant, the ship’s civilian master, said. “And we’re proving a number of different capabilities that the ship wasn’t necessarily designed for. We’re finding out a lot of things.”
The Navy plans to pair the JHSV program with what it calls “adaptive force packages,” or swappable mission configurations. Its most recent deployment included detachments drawn to work with African forces.
In Ghana, a Coast Guard law enforcement team helped with interdictions, and a pair of Riverines flew a small UAV to view the ships being boarded. An embarked security team picked up in Spain scanned the horizon for other threats.
For Casavant, whose history with Spearhead goes back more than three years, the deployment sets the pace for the rest of the ships in the class.
“It’s a lot bigger than just the 75 guys that are on it,” he said.
According to Naval-Technology.com, the basic characteristics of the new ship are as follows:
JHSV features rounded bilge and bulbous bow hull forms made of aluminum. The catamaran vessel is being built to American Bureau of Shipping (ABS) standards. Onboard systems comply with the commercial ABS steel vessel regulations.
The ship does not feature combat systems or the ability to support or use LCS mission modules. JHSV is based on the commercial technology, but includes limited military features, such as aviation, C4SI and fire-fighting.
The vessel has a length of 103m, a beam of 28.5m and a draft of 3.8m. Displacement of the ship is 2,362t.
The open unobstructed mission deck has a usable cargo area of more than 1,800 square meters with clear height of 4.7m and turning diameter of 26.2m.
Performance and power of the US Navy ships
JHSV can be operated in shallow-draft ports and waterways, interfacing with roll-on / roll-off discharge facilities and on / off-loading. The stern loading ramp can support a M1A2 Abrams main battle tank.
The ships can transport 635t of payload for more than 1,200nm at an average speed of 35kt. JHSV will be crewed by the civilian mariners provided by the Military Sealift Command. The vessel will complement a crew of approximately 42 people.
Aircraft capabilities of Austal USA’s JHSV
The JHSV features a Navair level 1 class 2 certified flight deck to support the operations of one helicopter, such as a CH-53E Super Stallion.
The ship is equipped with a centerline parking area for one helicopter, a vertical replenishment area and helicopter control station.
Kongsberg Maritime was contracted to supply the JHSVs helicopter operations surveillance system (HOSS).
Operated from the control room, the HOSS system allows helicopter operations in very low light conditions.
The system integrates a MIL-S-901D shock qualified 19″ SXGA LCD monitor suitable for night vision device (NVD) operations.
JHSV propulsion and crew accommodation
JHSV is powered by four MTU 20V8000 M71L diesel engines driving four Wartsila WLD 1400 SR waterjets via four ZF 60000NR2H reduction gears. Each engine rated at 9.1MW provides a maximum speed of 43kt without payload. The propulsion system delivers superior fuel efficiency to reduce operating costs.
The ship provides accommodation for 42 crew members in two single staterooms, six double staterooms and seven quadruple staterooms. There will be airline style seating for more than 312 embarked forces as well as permanent berths for approximately 104 personnel and temporary berths for 46 troops.
For additional pieces on JHSV see the following :