The 103 metre aluminium catamaran, â€œSpearheadâ€, is the first of its class under construction at Austal USA. â€œSpearheadâ€ and the nine other JHSVs under contract are ideal for fast, intraâ€theater transportation of troops, military vehicles, supplies and equipment. They are capable of transporting 600 short tons, 1,200 nautical miles at an average speed of 35 knots and can operate in shallowâ€draft ports and waterways, providing U.S. forces added mobility and flexibility. The JHSVs also have an aviation flight deck to support day and night air vehicle launch and recovery operations. JHSVs have berthing space for up to 146 personnel and airlineâ€style seating for up to 312.
Military commanders will have the flexibility to use the JHSV in a variety of roles to include supporting overseas contingency operations, conducting humanitarian assistance and disaster relief, supporting special operations forces and supporting emerging joint seaâ€basing concepts.
â€œWestpac Expressâ€, an Austalâ€built aluminium catamaran used as a prototype for the JHSV, has, over the past decade, served as a logistical transport for the Third Expeditionary Force (IIIMEF) of the U.S. Marine Corps based in Okinawa, Japan. â€œWestpac Expressâ€ has paved the way for the JHSV, supporting disaster recovery operations after the Indian Ocean earthquake and Tsunami in 2004 and the Japanese earthquake and Tsunami in 2011.
Upon delivery to the U.S. Navyâ€™s Military Sealift Command (MSC), â€œSpearheadâ€ will be designated as a United States Naval Ship (USNS), and will have a core crew of 21 civilian mariners who will operate and navigate the ships. The first four JHSVs â€“ including â€œSpearheadâ€ â€“ will be crewed by federally employed civil service mariners, and the remaining six will be crewed by civilian contract mariners working for private shipping companies under contract to MSC. Military mission personnel will embark as required by the mission sponsors.
Construction of â€œSpearheadâ€ commenced at Austal USA in July 2010. As a world leader in the design and construction of customised aluminium and defence vessels, Austal USA is based in Mobile, Alabama, a city with a long history of shipbuilding.
â€œOur workforce is our foundation. We have the finest ship designers and builders in the country, and their dedication to this project and others is immeasurable,â€ commented Joe Rella, Austal USA President and Chief Operating Officer.
In fact, despite a lagging economy, Austal USA has continued to grow, in vessel contracts and work force, making it Mobileâ€™s largest industrial employer, with a workforce in excess of 2,000 people. â€œSpearheadâ€ was the first vessel built from modules fabricated entirely in Austalâ€™s stateâ€ofâ€theâ€art Module Manufacturing Facility. Austal USA is also in the midst of a US$160 million facility expansion and plans to nearly double its workforce to complete an estimated US$5.2 billion in contracts with the U.S. Navy.