Navy Launches High-Speed Vessel USNS Choctaw County


November 2012


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The U.S. Navy recently launched the second of 10 joint high-speed rapid transport vessels to be crewed by civil service and civilian contract mariners.


Launching from Mobile, Ala., in October, the newly christened USNS Choctaw County is the second of a 10-ship, $1.6 billion program designed to provide joint high-speed vessels (JHSVs) for rapid transport of troops and military equipment. The Choctaw County signals new jobs for members of the SIU Government Services Division – it will operate from Little Creek, Va., and is expected to begin conducting missions for the Navy during the first quarter of 2014.


“The ship’s performance will be matched by the unique qualities of her crew – 21 civil service mariners committed to freedom, democracy and compassion,” said Deputy MSC Commander Rear Adm. Brian LaRoche while addressing more than 700 people during the ship’s christening event. “Choctaw County will carry the Military Sealift Command funnel stripes and the strength of the U.S. military wherever America needs it.”


All 10 MSC-owned JHSVs will be civilian-crewed. The first four – including the Choctaw

County – will be manned by federally-employed civil service mariners, while the remaining six will be crewed by civilian mariners working for private companies under contract to MSC.


The JHSVs – 338-foot-long aluminum catamarans – are designed to be fast and maneuverable in both deep and shallow water, making them effective at transporting troops and materiel within a theater of operation. The vessels are part of the U.S. Defense Department’s next generation of multi-use platforms and can be quickly adapted to whatever the mission calls for, according to MSC. That includes everything from carrying containerized portable hospitals for disaster relief to transporting tanks and troops.


Civilian Capt. Jose Delfaus, who serves as Choctaw County’s civil service master, said the ships fit perfectly with the new concept of forward-basing. The goal of forward-basing is to cut back on the number of overseas bases by equipping more forward-deployed ships with troops and gear.


“JHSVs can join up with these ships and help them essentially by being their delivery truck, delivering anything they need from troops and gear to provisions or cargo,” he said.


JHSVs can transport 600 tons of troops, supplies and equipment 1,200 nautical miles at an average of 35 knots, according to the Navy. Their aviation flight decks can support day and night operations, while each vessel also has sleeping accommodations for up to 146 and airline-style seating for up to 312.


“The JHSV bridge functions more like a 747 cockpit than a traditional ship’s bridge,” Delfaus said. “Everything you need to move the ship is available through an elaborate control panel. The navigation team also sits in the bridge, as does the engineering consul. It’s a very unique set up – the rows of people make it look a bit like Star Trek.”



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